Business leader smiling while handshaking with new employee.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you experienced the consequences of not taking responsibility as a child. I’ve heard stories of parents throwing away a child’s favorite toy because it wasn’t picked up. Others were grounded or forced to miss a field trip because they didn’t ask their parents to sign the permission slip. Others who didn’t do their chores couldn’t earn an allowance or do something fun, like have a sleepover at a friend’s house.
Some of these experiences may have seemed traumatic at the time — I’m sure there were plenty of kids who crossed a line and regretted it later. Looking back as an adult, however, I can see it was all about teaching the importance of accountability.
Accountability is something I not only work toward personally, but also something I want to instill in my children and employees. Imagine how chaotic your home or workplace would be if people didn’t have to answer for their actions.
Despite this, organizations still struggle with accountability. According to author and transformational leader Anne Loehr, 93 percent of employees don’t even understand what their organization is trying to accomplish so they can align themselves with that goal. Additionally, 85 percent of leaders aren’t defining what their employees should be working on. And 84 percent describe themselves “as ‘trying but failing’ or ‘avoiding’ accountability, even when employees know what to fix.”
The Importance of Holding People Accountable
Those are troubling figures for any leader to see. After all, accountability is absolutely vital to your company’s success.
1. Accountability bolsters your company’s culture.
John Wright, director and vice president of marketing at MCGB Properties Ltd., said that “a lack of accountability can have a snowball effect throughout the team.” Author Pete Lowe adds, “When an organization’s culture is embedded in honesty and integrity it enables people to acknowledge mistakes without fear of blame and to work with the team to reflect, learn and move forward positively.”
It’s true: When everyone from the top to the bottom follows through on promises, doesn’t blame others for mistakes, and supports others in achieving goals, it creates a healthy and positive work culture. As a result, this breeds trust and enhances productivity.
How can you achieve this? Wright says you can embed accountability by making it everyone’s responsibility. Establish meaningful goals, and earn team buy-in before moving forward. Build trust through support and encouragement, modeling the behavior you want to see from your colleagues. This will empower individual team members while enabling the team to celebrate successes together.
2. It improves your employees’ individual performance.
One of the most important goals you need to set as a business owner is getting the most out of your team. How does this tie in with accountability?
For starters, accountability promotes engagement and ownership because everyone clearly knows what his or her responsibilities and expectations are. Not only does this teach your employees to value and take pride in their work, but it also explains how their work fits into the bigger picture. It shows that you trust them enough to let them work how they prefer. And because your team knows exactly what to do daily, it eliminates time typically wasted on deciding what to work on in what order.
Put together, this means you have a more engaged, motivated, and productive workforce that’s churning out higher-quality work. Best of all, you have a high-performing team that holds itself accountable without your intervention — when people are confronted with standards and adopt them for themselves, there’s little need for outside interference. They aim to make themselves proud.
3. Accountability results in stronger adherence to compliance.
Accountability is crucial when it comes to employees being compliant with both established and new company guidelines, laws, regulations, and standards. People who understand the consequences of failing to adhere to specific guidelines are more likely to follow them, and entire teams that feel the weight of those standards will work together to meet them.
When members of an organization are held responsible for their actions, it creates a healthier, happier, and safer working environment where everyone can focus on work instead of dealing with colleagues’ inappropriate actions or behavior. This also can reduce the number of potential lawsuits or fines your company could be faced with.
4. Accountability is good for your bottom line.
Finally, accountability can help improve your bottom line. When you and your team aren’t wasting time identifying the sources of problems and making decisions, you can devote more energy to the activities pushing your business forward. What’s more, accountability inspires everyone to exceed their goals and improve their performance — they know they can’t rest on their laurels.
And because they’re engaged, you’ll outdo your competitors — Gallup found that highly engaged workforces outperform competitors and result in 21 percent greater profitability. As business coach Jason Blumer puts it, bringing in a healthy level of accountability can keep “the ideas flowing and the execution happening.” From my experience, that’s the simplest and most effective way to grow your company.
Although accountability is vital, it can be overwhelming to consider. However, the first step is to define what accountability means to you and your company. What will go wrong if people aren’t held accountable? Where do people need leeway to be innovative and creative? From there, set clear goals, expectations, and guidelines for everyone to follow.
Most importantly, let your employees take the wheel. Let them figure out how to solve problems and work however they please. Of course, you need to set parameters for them, such as deadlines and expectations. But ownership won’t just encourage them to be more responsible; they’ll also be happier and more productive, which saves time and money and improves your cash flow. And when — not if — they make a mistake, they’ll learn from that experience and grow.
Good behaviors can be hard to enforce — but if you avoid accountability, everything else will become a lot harder, too. Invest in holding yourself and your teammates responsible for the actions you take. Your company — and your relationships — will benefit.
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