How do you create a culture of accountability?

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 02 January 2024

Business leaders are becoming increasingly concerned by the “not my job” culture within teams - I’ve heard this from my own clients. Taking responsibility can be viewed negatively by employees because historically, it’s been dictated from the top down, rather than presented as a meaningful way to increase a sense of purpose. 


As leaders, you play a pivotal role in providing a framework for accountability and building a team that recognises the collective impact of their efforts.


In this article, I discuss how a culture that values responsibility creates a more engaged and productive workforce. I also share insights on what leaders can do to champion accountability, supported by seven actionable tips.

Why is accountability important?

Accountability is the linchpin of high-performing teams. It gives people a sense of ownership over their responsibilities, leading to increased motivation and productivity. It also creates trust among team members, promoting effective collaboration.


Accountability also encourages a culture of continuous improvement, in which individuals feel supported to learn from mistakes and seek solutions proactively. In a workplace that values accountability, there is a higher likelihood of achieving organisational objectives, maintaining morale and cultivating a positive team culture.


Despite this, statistics reveal that only 26% of employees believe their organisation has a strong culture of accountability. This is one of the biggest complaints against workplace cultures. As employees seek more purpose in their jobs, employers are delivering well below the bar. According to findings in the Harvard Business Review, only:

  • 14% of employees feel their performance is managed in a motivating way
  • 21% feel their performance metrics are within their control
  • 40% feel as if their manager holds them accountable for goals they set
  • 31% feel they’re living up to their potential at work

The challenges of the lack of accountability

A lack of accountability is perceived as a lack of care from leaders. This sets the tone for the entire organisation - because if you don’t care, then why should your employees? Several challenges arise from this, including low engagement, an inability to meet objectives and poor business performance.


The cumulative effect of the following challenges harms the overall success and reputation of your organisation:

  • Not meeting strategic objectives: Whether your goal is to grow your business or customer base, it’s a lot more challenging if there’s no accountability. Without clear ownership, tasks fall through the cracks, deadlines are missed and projects are left unfinished.
  • Low business performance: Accountability lifts the organisation. A lack of it drags employees down by diminishing their sense of usefulness. When this is company wide, there is a higher risk of errors, oversights and sub-par business performance. 
  • Difficulty in performance measurement: Evaluating individual and team performance becomes challenging when there are no clear accountabilities. In turn, this makes it difficult to assess achievements and identify areas for improvement.
  • Decreased motivation and engagement: Employees become demotivated when they perceive a lack of purpose. As the backbone of your organisation, it’s imperative that employees remain engaged and motivated.
  • Culture of blame: A lack of accountability lends itself to a culture in which individuals deflect blame onto others. Not only does this hinder a constructive and solution-oriented approach to challenges, it also erodes trust and effective teamwork.

What do leaders need to do to create a culture of accountability?

Accountability isn’t just about taking responsibility for your job role. A true culture of accountability is when everyone is committed to contributing to the greater good.


For example, if your company wants to be more environmentally friendly, something as small as one person not recycling is enough to diminish that goal. So, you need to ask yourself: how do I make this issue matter to everyone? 


Similarly, customer service shouldn’t just be the responsibility of the customer service team. Everyone within the organisation should care about the customer and understand how their work impacts customers. As leaders, you need to clearly communicate that accountability isn’t just based on the individual, but is something shared.


Leaders also need to recognise their own failings - they need to be accountable for their own accountability. For example, according to this Deloitte survey, 94% of employees feel their manager should be accountable for their wellbeing. By contrast, only 32% feel that their manager cares about this issue. 


A culture of accountability isn’t manifested overnight, nor can it be mandated. Instead, it involves a continual, combined effort from every employee at every level. If you’re at the top, you need to lead by example and promote accountability through seven areas of focus below.

7 things leaders can do to improve accountability

1. Role modelling

You set an example when you consistently hold yourself accountable for your actions, decisions and commitments. Showcasing the behaviour you expect from your teams helps accountability flow through your organisation.


2. Clear expectations 

Employees can’t fulfil invisible expectations. It’s your responsibility to define and communicate these for individual and team performance. Do you have a behavioural competency framework in place and is it embedded throughout your organisation? This helps ensure everyone understands what’s expected of them from a behavioural perspective. 

3. Difficult conversations

Over 80% of managers struggle to hold employees accountable. But it’s crucial to have these difficult conversations around performance. Failing to hold yourself accountable in this way means individuals won’t have a clear roadmap on how to improve, which only creates more problems.

4. Transparent communication

Employees must feel encouraged to discuss challenges, share progress and seek assistance. This creates a solution-based culture in which people work together to overcome roadblocks and uplift each other.

5. Admitting mistakes

When leaders are willing to admit their mistakes, it reinforces that owning your errors isn’t a cause for punishment, but an intrinsic part of being accountable. This encourages others to follow your example and work towards solutions, rather than try to hide their mistakes.

6. Aligning goals with company vision

Ensure that individual goals are measurable and align with your company’s vision. Regularly providing feedback on the progress of these goals also allows you to show how everyone’s contributions impact the success of the company. This establishes a purpose-driven environment.

7. Celebrate progress

Praise is one of the most memorable forms of feedback. When employees feel valued, they’re more likely to go the extra mile. These individuals become role models for accountability.

How Hanover can help you build a culture of accountability

By promoting accountability through these areas, you make it easier for your teams to champion responsibility. When people know exactly what’s expected of them, and how they bring value to the organisation at large, accountability becomes more meaningful. 

Hanover can help you define key behaviours that are critical to high-performance in your organisation to ensure everyone is working towards shared goals. We can help your leaders increase their self-awareness and leadership style, and develop skills to have difficult conversations and create a psychologically safe environment for their teams. If you need help creating a culture of accountability in your organisation, contact us and let’s arrange a call.

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