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5 Steps To Accountability

5 Steps to Accountability

Without accountability, there are no results. The focus moves away from responsibility and growth to finger pointing, excuses and people throwing each under the proverbial bus.  Over time performance declines, team members lose respect for one another and the customer experience suffers.

Consider the case of Wells Fargo last year.  Wells Fargo got caught running a scheme in which sales quotas drove employees to set up phony credit card and bank accounts without customer knowledge.  Instead of a course of action to accept responsibility, apologize and institute company-wide changes to ensure this kind of thing didn’t happen again, the bank’s initial response was to blame employees. Senior leaders claimed that that the scheme was concocted by 5300 “rouge” employees…all of whom were subsequently fired. Any connection between the incident and the company culture was denied.

Of course this an extreme case. We see smaller, seemingly less important infractions all the time.  Like missed deadlines that no one cares about, meetings with no clear call to action and a set of assumptions where shared expectations should be.  Before those little things turn into big problems, here are 5 things that you can do to build or strengthen your company’s culture of accountability.

1.Model Personal Accountability:

It’s easy to talk about accountability. As we saw with Wells Fargo, it’s much more difficult in practice. If you are going to own your success, you must own your mistakes too. Do what you say you are going to do. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. When leaders do this, they set up a framework for an accountable culture as middle managers and front line team members follow the example.


2.Set and Communicate Clear Expectations

You can’t have accountability without clear standards to follow. These expectations should encompass performance related matters and behavior. Include what specifically you are looking for and exactly how it will be measured. This should be a two conversation between the leader/manager and the direct report.  Employees should have expectations for their managers just as managers should have them for their direct reports.


3.Provide the Tools

To support the expectations, you must provide the time, training and resources necessary. If the person responsible for a project doesn’t have the skills or tools to reach the expectation-the manager should either invest in those areas or delegate to someone else. Otherwise, managers run the risk of setting that person up for failure.


4.Provide Recognition and Feedback

People should know where they stand and if they need to continue what they’re doing or make some adjustments. Ask: Is this person delivering on her commitments? Is she on track?  If so, recognition is in order. If not, it’s time to talk about it.


5.Take Action

Not only is it important to reward individual and teams who meet or exceed expectations, it’s also important to reward the level of accountability shown throughout the process. When expectations haven’t been met, leaders must address it. This includes performance expectations (production quota for example) as well as behavioral expectations (treating fellow team members with respect in a meeting for example.)  Otherwise leaders risk normalizing the status quo and lack of responsibility.


For more about building a culture of accountability, give us a call at 888-529-0240 or shoot us an email at

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