What is accountability in business? The only accountability guide you need

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Creating a culture of accountability is important for high-performing teams, but it can be challenging to implement. In the corporate world, most managers don’t have a way of holding employees accountable. 

The first step to implementing accountability is a shared understanding of what it means. In this guide, you’ll learn what accountability actually is, why it’s important, the many benefits and a few examples of professional and personal accountability. 

What does accountability mean?

Workplace accountability means setting clear expectations and goals while holding employees accountable by defining the business’s values, mission and goals. If you’re a business leader, accountability means holding all employees responsible for accomplishing those meaningful goals. It also refers to the idea that every employee should take ownership of their work and be held responsible for any outcomes of that work. 

Accountability is crucial, but employees should feel empowered to do their work and strive for excellence without having someone constantly looking over their shoulder. This laidback but responsible leadership style breeds trust in the workplace, allowing employees to be confident and comfortable in their work. 

Why is accountability important?

Building accountability in the workplace can be challenging, but it is vitally important. Here are just some of the many benefits of taking accountability.  

Accountability builds trust

In an accountable environment, individual employees and the entire team can count on and trust each other. They can fulfil their duties and meet deadlines, as they know their coworkers will be responsible for their end of the job. 

If employees aren’t held accountable, a simple task involving multiple people can get held up in the pipeline – which nobody wants. Accountability fosters a safe space to ask for help and seek advice, which builds independence, trust and transparency.  

Accountability enhances performance

Employees who take responsibility are more attentive to the small details of their tasks, making the end result even better. The product of accountability is success and confidence in their work. 

When you are clear with your employees about who is responsible for what tasks, it eliminates any element of confusion over work allocation. Additionally, having simple ways to map outcomes to outputs will help people understand how their work contribute to their team or company objectives and make it easier to reach goals in a timely manner.

Accountability helps employees stay consistent and happy

When employees start working on a task (this goes for everyone), distractions will inevitably interfere with their concentration, causing them to lose focus on achieving their goals. With accountability, employees will be more focused as they have a responsibility to complete jobs within a given timeframe. When tasks are completed within deadlines, employees will feel more accomplished and likely have greater job satisfaction.

Accountability strengthens the workplace culture

With accountability, everyone celebrates successes together. Accountability helps develop healthy and productive workplace relationships, as those who take personal responsibility are more likely to treat other team members with respect. 

If someone promises they will work on a task and they follow through with it on time, they are considered trustworthy and reliable, demonstrating that they care about their fellow coworkers and are aware of the impact their work has on the entire team. 

How to take accountability and be accountable

Both managers and employees on a team must be held accountable. Here are some top accountability examples. 

As a team leader

Provide meaningful feedback

As an effective leader, you should give your employees constructive feedback and regularly evaluate their performance. This helps them have a better understanding of what they should and shouldn’t do moving forward. 

If employees hand in sub-par work or don’t meet clearly defined expectations, help them improve. On the flip side, reward them if they are consistently exceeding expectations and handing in stellar work. 

Set clear expectations

Don’t set vague expectations like, “Complete the project and send it to the client as soon as possible.” How do they complete it, and what date should it be done by? To embed accountability, you need to set clear expectations and ensure that everyone on the team understands them. Your employees need to know what’s expected of them, down to the very detail. Unclear expectations create accountability gaps. 

Establish a safe environment

Employees should feel like they can open up, be transparent, and let you know if something is happening in their work or personal lives. Your team should also be able to ask for help or advice without judgement. If they aren’t able to do this, their work and professional relationships will almost always be affected.

As an employee 

Pay attention to the details in your work

If you’ve been at a company for a long period of time, you may skim over crucial details that affect your performance without even realising. Don’t skip the small details – you’ll be less likely to make mistakes.

Accept responsibility and acknowledge mistakes

It can be easy to blame someone else when things go wrong, but to demonstrate real accountability, you need to accept responsibility for your mistakes and take action to resolve them. Everyone makes mistakes. They’re all part of the learning process, after all! 

Be proactive

Instead of a reactive approach to conflicts or complaints, think ahead to anticipate potential issues and how you can resolve them. This way, you can create practical solutions before issues arise. 

Final thoughts

We cannot overstate the importance of accountability in the workplace. Its absence creates a snowball effect of mistrust, poor team spirit, little employee engagement and productivity levels being at an all-time low. So, you should always aim to make accountability a core part of your organisation’s culture. 

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Brianna Harrison

Copy and content writer

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