How to Build a Culture of Accountability, Drive Employee Engagement, and Succeed:

Successful Organizations Hold People Accountable for Achieving Goals and Meeting Expectations

It’s not uncommon to hear employees grumble about how certain coworkers and bosses don’t pull their weight at work. Oftentimes collaborators shudder when they hear the word “accountability” because it takes them to a dark place where they are going to take the blame for mistakes and problems.

Simply put, accountability is delivering on commitment. When employees are held accountable for their work, the organization establishes a culture of trust. Everyone expects others to do their jobs. People, and organizations, succeed.

Something so critical to an organization’s success continues to be the Holy Grail of objectives. Ron Carucci, a Harvard Business Review reporter, writes, “Data shows that 82% of managers acknowledge they have “limited to no” ability to hold others accountable successfully, and 91% of employees would say that “effectively holding others accountable” is one of their company’s top leadership-development needs.”

Accountability processes include annual performance reviews, informal follow-ups with bosses, 360 degree feedback surveys, self-evaluations and more. Your organization and leaders can probably do better.

Here are 5 tips to become an organization that makes accountability an essential piece of your business culture. Go beyond the annual performance review.

1. Expectations (behavior and performance) must be clear. George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” How do you establish clear expectations?

  • a. Have accurate job descriptions.
  • b. In your onboarding process, establish 30, 60, 90, and 365-day actionable goals and expectations for the job.
  • c. Ask employees how they best like to receive communication.
  • Not everyone speaks the same language. Oftentimes these communication gaps are generational or social.
  • d. Align employee tasks and work with organization goals. They must understand WHY they are doing WHAT they are doing. This is purpose.


2. Leaders must become master diagnosticians. Why is your employee not performing? Are there skill gaps? Technical issues? Lack of motivation? You can’t fix something if you don’t know what’s wrong to begin with.

3. Measure what matters. Vague goals provide vague results. This is incredibly frustrating both for management and collaborators. Return to your SMART goals metrics: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

4. Improve relationships through real conversations about work. Change the conversation – dig deep. Connection is a key piece of accountability – to the job, to our peers, to our managers. Instead of the dry-toast weekly or monthly check-in, dig deeper with meaningful questions: What are you most proud of this quarter? Who helped you reach your goals? How do you think I could help you do your job better? What learning opportunities are out there that you’d be interested in pursuing (conferences, workshops, classes etc.)

5. Stories matter. Sometimes employees come up with the most unique, clever, and creative ways to solve a problem, work with a challenging client, improve a process. In a meeting, or one-on-one, ask employees to share the story behind their success. Learn from each other.

There are so many more ways to build a culture of accountability at work. Prepare for success!

"When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice." ? Brené Brown




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