Steps to Creating a Culture of Accountability (3 min)

Steps to Creating a Culture of Accountability

Perhaps the simplest and most sustainable way to increase accountability is to create an organizational culture where accountability is understood, valued and has tangible consequences. Here are some of the ways to create a culture of accountability in your workplace:

1. Speak openly about accountability. If you discuss accountability with your team and come to a common understanding of what it means to be accountable to each other, it becomes a foundation for team building.

2. Set SMART goals. Setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound means that there is an objective measure by which to hold people accountable. If everyone is clear on what the goals are, it is possible for them to access themselves. Setting clear goals also helps people to prioritize and be more likely to stay focused on the most important tasks that they are accountable for.

3. Create safety and trust. People can understandably avoid being held accountable if they fear humiliating or harsh consequences. Ensure that speaking up in open and honest ways is affirmed and good performance is recognized to build confidence and rapport. Make it clear what it means to be accountable for failure by putting learning protocols in place such as extra coaching or support if people are struggling to meet an objective. If people know that their accountability will be met with a positive response, they’ll feel safer to speak up and take responsibility when things are going wrong.

4. Be transparent about performance. Establishing a culture of sharing key performance metrics regularly and openly with the team helps individuals to hold each other accountable and also to be supportive of each other in reaching goals and delivering on commitments. It’s also a great way to focus efforts on priority areas and make sure those goals are met.

5. Share responsibility for upholding accountability. Everyone in a team or organization can be responsible for holding each other accountable. Rather than leaving it to senior management, encourage and support individuals to speak out in appropriate ways when a colleague needs to be held accountable. There may be some difficult conversations that come up but this will ultimately build trust within the team. 

6. Apply both positive and negative consequences. For accountability to be meaningful, it needs to have both positive and negative consequences and for both to be consistently applied. If poor performance and/or great performance are not being recognized, there is little to motivate the accountability you are asking for.

Kevin Baum – entrepreneur and a regular contributor to – says “Make sure that every assigned task has a clear and stated result, both for completion and for leaving it undone. Great leaders will establish the upside of completion and the down side of letting it slide so that those responsible clearly understand the importance and impact of getting it done.”