How many of us have worked for a company that had no accountability….they really didn’t know what it meant but tried to impose it?

They believed everyone had responsibility…which they didn’t, and that was enough. The two are often confused. So let’s first define the difference. The main difference is that responsibility can be shared and accountability cannot. Responsibility is an obligation to perform a task, whereas Accountability is being answerable for the consequences of that task.

A 2015 Workplace Accountability Study revealed that 82% of respondents have no ability to hold others accountable, but 91% of people rank accountability as one of the top development needs they’d like to see at their organization.

Being accountable not only means being responsible but ultimately ANSWERABLE for your actions.  Performance is not measured with responsibility but it IS with accountability.

Helping people to feel accountable is key to any organization’s growth. You cannot force accountability.  If you do, people will resent it and fight back, often in ways, you can’t see. Force is not the answer. Helping, coaching and discussing towards commitment is.

Accountability goes sideways when leaders impose expectations on reluctant followers. The starting point of accountability is where people want to go, not what we pressure them to do.

Accountability is proven to accelerate individuals and companies performance and so how do we encourage it? Here are 5 ways:

1. Establish Clear Roles

People struggle to be accountable when roles and processes are unclear. We should remove as much confusion as possible about who is doing what.


2. Instill Ownership for Results

Focus on team processes. We should look at how the team is working toward goals and outcomes. Each member should have the obligation to seek information, give and receive feedback and point out the need for corrective action.


3. Avoid Punishment 

If our goal in fostering accountability is to know who to punish when revenue targets are not met or budgets are missed, we will only succeed in creating fear. No one will be willing to step up, speak out or try something new. Innovation and risk taking will be lost.


4. Seek Improvement 

Accountability is the foundation for creating a learning organization. If we want sustainable high-quality processes, we need to be able to see what’s working and what isn’t – and analyze the cause.


5. Welcome Evaluation 

In accountable organizations, no one expects to “stay under the radar.” In fact, people seek feedback because they know it is intended to improve the process and add to their knowledge. They don’t feel threatened by it.


When the work environment is designed for accountability, it will flourish. When it’s not, you’ll get great work from a few people – until they stop making the effort or leave for another job.


Peter M. Beaumont is the Founder and Principal of ConnXN Consulting. He is also the author of The Relationship Roadmap, a comprehensive guide to building relationships with strategic clients. Find out more at www.ConnXN.net

About the Author:

I am the customer relationship mentor, who helps those responsible for their company’s most important customers, to build and maintain their customer relationships and keep them happy, so that they can protect & grow their business.