Written By Chad Kearns

Published on April 4, 2023

People want to be surrounded by reliable coworkers who follow through well, deliver on what’s required, and do it on time. Work would be much simpler if everyone was reliable more often. Much of this falls on an organization’s culture around accountability. 

Unfortunately, the level of accountability in organizations usually falls short of where people would like it to be. Accountability in organizations can be an issue for several reasons, but usually, accountability issues start at the top. 

If your team is struggling to follow through, start here to build a culture of accountability:

Exhibit the Standard

Building a culture of accountability starts with you, the leader of the team. Your goal of fostering a culture of accountability has no chance if you’re not able to lead the way by exhibiting the standard.

If you, the leader of your organization, are not accountable for your actions, outcomes, and work, it’s going to be very, very hard to build a culture of accountability among those around you.

Others will follow your lead. What you choose to do, or not do, will set the standard for what is acceptable and not acceptable.

If you can’t exhibit the standard, building a culture of accountability will be near impossible. 

Clarify and Document Expectations

When leading a team, focus on clarifying and documenting the most important outcomes of what needs to be accomplished. What are the metrics, results, and outcomes that really matter?

Clarify expectations. Document them. Assign ownership to accomplishing them. Make it clear.

Clear expectations must have three things:

  • A clear owner: who is responsible for delivery?
  • A clear result: upon completion, it should be easy to answer the question, “was the expected outcome achieved or not?”
  • A clear timeline: upon completion, it should be easy to answer the question, “was the result achieved on time?

These expectations can be as large or granular as needed. The key is creating clarity. 

When clarified, make sure the expectations are written down somewhere so that those assigning them and those who are responsible for them have visibility. 

Gain Acknowledgement (and Hopefully, Agreement)

It’s important to make sure that those who are assigned expectations understand and acknowledge what needs to be accomplished and by when it needs to be accomplished. Again, get really clear here.

Work to clarify any unknowns together. Ensure that those who are responsible acknowledge what’s expected of them. 

Provide Resources, Training, and Support

Reasonable resources, training, and support should be provided for anyone working to meet the expectations assigned to them.

They should have everything they need around them to be successful. If they don’t have the resources, training, or support, it’s likely they won’t meet what’s expected. As a leader, part of your responsibility is to set your team members up for success. Aligning resources, training, and support with what needs to be accomplished is vital. 

Coach to Correct

If and when expectations are not met, a leader’s job is to coach until the expectations are met. 

That might mean more training. That might mean allocating more resources. That might mean a hard conversation about what someone is and isn’t capable of. 

When expectations aren’t met, is must be addressed. 

Otherwise, your culture of accountability falters.

Reward Follow Through

When expectations are met, celebrate it! 

Make following through and being accountable a positive part of your organization’s culture. Show that following through and driving the right outcomes is what matters. Do it often enough and it will become contagious. 

Culture is Built Through Established Norms

Your established norms mold your team’s culture.

If a lack of accountability and poor follow-through is not met with correction in your organization, that behavior becomes acceptable.

But by driving with a focus on follow-through and making that an everyday expectation, leaders can build a strong culture of accountability that helps their organization thrive in the present and future.