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Fostering a Culture of Accountability

Accountability embodies a spectrum of meanings that vary from person to person.  However, at its core, accountability involves taking responsibility for one’s abilities and actions.  This sometimes means raising your hand and saying, “I need help,” and other times telling your supervisor, “I missed the mark on this.”

According to a study, 91% of participants highlighted accountability as a crucial aspect they desire in their workplace, yet 82% of those respondents believed they had no power to hold anyone else accountable.  There’s clearly a discrepancy surrounding accountability in the workplace, which is why leaders should be putting an even greater emphasis on it.

Like any other culture change, accountability must start with top-level employees and trickle down throughout the rest of the company.  When organizational leaders emphasize and exemplify high levels of accountability, lower-level employees are inspired to do the same.  When individuals are accountable for themselves and others, it increases their sense of empowerment, making them more motivated and incentivized to offer solutions and contribute to results.  Accountability and productivity go hand in hand, so to maximize your company’s output and profit, you should focus on these four things to increase your workplace accountability.

Have Set Accountability Meetings

The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) studied accountability and found that your chances of completing a goal increase to 65% if you tell someone about your commitment.  Even more impressive, those odds raise 95% if you have a specific meeting with your accountability partner.  These meetings not only give you insight into how your employees are doing in relation to their goals but also create a conversation where they can take responsibility for what is and is not working.

Make Everyone’s Goals Public

This can seem daunting, but it’s one of the best ways to hold people accountable for their actions.  When goals are public knowledge throughout the company, no one can hide behind their numbers and there are no surprises at the end of the quarter because everyone is aware of who is and is not reaching their goals.  This shouldn’t be used as a tool to put people down for not reaching their goals, though, but rather a tool to celebrate those who did.

Avoid the Triangle of Blame

To avoid the Triangle of Blame, you first must educate your employees on what it is and how to recognize it.  The Triangle of Blame is the common conflict arising out of a lack of accountability, including a victim, an offender, and a rescuer.  In most cases, someone who perceives themselves as a victim reaches out to a rescuer and labels the other person involved as an offender.  For example, Susan goes up to John and says, “Can you believe the way Pete made me look bad on the call yesterday?” This creates a triangle of blame – forcing John into the middle of the conflict.

By educating your employees on this concept, they’ll be mindful of when they’re placed in a Triangle of Blame and know how to diffuse the situation.  Rather than feeding into Susan’s negativity, John would recognize the situation and get out of it by saying, “I think you should talk to Pete directly about that.” This response reduces conflict and shows that John is holding Susan accountable for her actions.  When the Triangle of Blame is consciously avoided, it increases the sense of accountability throughout the organization.

Recognize and Acknowledge the Various Levels of Accountability

Accountability falls into a series of different tiers, so leaders must understand which tier their employees are at.  If your employees are at a basic level, it would be unrealistic to expect them to develop to an advanced level immediately.  If you understand where your employees are currently, it’ll be easier for you to help them develop their skills to reach the next level.  Additionally, it will be helpful for them to recognize why you’re pushing for this culture change.  When you understand that everyone is at a different stage in accountability, you’ll be able to give them the tools they need to advance in it successfully.

A team without accountability tends to resort to excuses, miss deadlines, and engage in blame-shifting.  Conversely, accountable teams consistently achieve their goals, maintain open communication, and adapt as necessary to ensure success.  Once individuals embrace ownership and responsibility for their actions, they naturally identify opportunities for growth and progression – fostering a culture of accountability and achievement.


Author – Steven Crawford, InteraWorks Director of Sales


About InteraWorks

InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals and teams, including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent, and energy to produce results that matter most. 


We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.