A Culture of Accountability: Who’s Responsible?


A Culture of Accountability: Who’s Responsible?

Accountability is vital to the success of any business. Business leaders must take the initiative in creating, developing and sustaining a culture of accountability. Here are some strategies that will help.

All business owners want their businesses to succeed. Success is only possible in an environment where people accept their responsibilities and deliver on their commitments – within a carefully nurtured culture of accountability.

What is accountability?

Accountability is more than just accepting responsibility when mistakes occur. It’s about actively taking on responsibility, following it through, and getting things done. It’s also about recognising that all employees, and departments, have responsibilities of their own, and are all inter-dependent.

Accountability matters. Without it, no one can be held responsible. In a culture of accountability, people accept and value responsibility, and understand it involves a certain degree of autonomy. Accountability helps create an environment that enables individuals and the business as a whole to be proactive and seek ways for improvement.

Accountability is catching

They say culture is ‘caught not taught’. Accountability starts with the leaders of a business. If leadership is not accountable or tolerates a lack of accountability in others, the deficiency progressively affects the entire organisation. Left untreated, this situation undermines any sense of clarity about who is responsible for what. Employees who are not clear about their responsibilities, or not held accountable for outcomes will ultimately have a negative impact on the overall success of a business.

5 steps to encourage accountability

To prevent the deterioration of accountability in the workplace, we have found that business leaders should:

  1. Set clear expectations: It is imperative that leaders are clear about expectations and outcomes, about how people can go about achieving objectives, and how success will be measured. Setting goals, KPIs and deliverables that are in line with the business’s values, vision and mission, will motivate employees to achieve targets
  2. Provide resources: If employees are to be accountable, they must have the skills and resources necessary to do what is expected of them. Without them, they are likely to fail. Effective training plans and development programs can provide employees with the right support to help them meet expectations.
  3. Monitor progress: Employees need to work through a series of milestones – clear and measurable targets with an agreed timeline and budget to achieve them. If they fall behind or lose sight of a target, the problem should be addressed right away, and solutions found to make sure employees can get back on track.
  4. Give clear, honest feedback: Feedback from leaders is imperative. If there are clear expectations, capabilities and measurement tools, then feedback can be factual and evidence-based, and communication is made easier.
  5. Establish consequences: If from the start, there is a clear understanding about expectations, and all essential resources have been provided, leaders can be sure they have done what is needed to support their employees’ performance. They should recognise and reward the achievement of results and celebrate employees’ successes. If, on the other hand, employees do not perform as required, there might be gaps in understanding or perception about what was expected; this should be talked through. Employees who continue to fail might require performance management, or might eventually exit the organisation.

All of these measures will help to improve the success of the business, but the leader’s own example is crucial.

Accountability starts at the top

Where leaders act without accountability, employees will follow. The leaders of a business are its foundation, so it is vital that they display the characteristics they desire from their employees. A business underpinned by strong values and a culture of accountability will flourish, and create an environment that performs well.

Seek expert help

Creating a culture of accountability is not easy to do. At dVT Strategy, we have helped several business owners to put accountability back into the business.

We work with leaders and their employees to develop clear expectations and set achievable goals, through the development of KPIs and targets. We also provide leaders with tools for skills analysis, so they can ensure all staff have what they need to succeed in their roles.

As a result, we have seen improved performances in our clients’ businesses as their employees take responsibility for outcomes and find solutions to address challenges. Due to improved performance, clients have also enjoyed increased financial returns.

If you improve a leader’s accountability, you generate a small improvement in business. If through increased accountability, you can improve the performance of everyone in the organisation, you generate a significant improvement in business.

If you are struggling with a lack of accountability in your business, or you know someone who is, there is expert help available. For assistance in creating a culture of accountability, contact Brendan Ryan at dVT Strategy on 02 9633 3333 or email brendan@dvtgroup.com.au.