DOOR International South East Asia

How a culture of accountability will help you achieve your results in 2021 and beyond

Do you find yourself spending too much of your time re-checking the work of your team? If this distracts you from achieving your main objectives, chances are you’re lacking a culture of accountability.

Leaders across various sectors agree that your company culture has the highest impact on achieving results (according to this study by Partners In Leadership). Despite this, 74% of leaders admit to consistently prioritizing strategy change over cultural change.

To make sure you don’t fall victim to the same way of thinking, this article will help you identify which processes in your organization need more accountable leadership to cultivate a team of accountable employees.

Why is accountability in the workplace so important?

Most people start thinking about responsibility or accountability only when things go wrong. Maybe you recognize this scenario: all your team members have completed “their tasks”, but in the end, the project did not reach the desired results? While you investigate where it went wrong, you keep hearing the phrases “that’s not my job” or “I’ve done my part”.

Here lies the difference between responsibility and accountability. In order for a company that is organized around responsibilities to be successful, leaders need to dedicate more of their time on clearly defining the tasks they delegate and subsequently checking and fixing the input that was provided further down the line.

On the other hand, leaders who are dedicated to building a culture of accountability find themselves with more time to focus on achieving the organization’s big objectives.

Besides this increase in focus on results, another main advantage of promoting accountability at work is employee engagement. By making sure the entire team is aligned on the same goals, leaders can empower and motivate the workforce to proactively work towards these goals, rather than reactively completing individual tasks.

What does it mean to be accountable?

Accountability is a personal choice that goes beyond responsibility. An accountable person does not only care about fulfilling the task in front of them but is aligned with and motivated to work towards the desired objective of the project as a whole.

Accountability persists through all levels of an organization. Starting with accountable leadership, the company’s objectives are shared so that teams can take accountability for the key results. On an individual level, every single employee is encouraged to take professional accountability for his or her work.

Luckily, accountability can be practiced. There are many small exercises that you can try together with your team, such as defining goals & practicing giving feedback. Get started by downloading our self-assessment tool.

An example of responsibility vs. accountability

Consider this real example of how large companies often operate. Imagine the CEO of a big multinational organization has a critical meeting coming up with the government representatives to discuss tax rates for the following years.

The CEO intends to demonstrate the company’s contribution to the country and asks one of his executives to take care of collecting the data and preparing the presentation. The executive sends the task to a subordinate, the middle manager who forwards it to the trainee saying: “you have all the information in the database, just put it in the slides”.

Everybody fulfills their tasks: the trainee prepares the slides and sends them on time to the middle manager. The manager confirms that everything is in line with the information in the database and sends it to the executive who forwards the slides to the CEO.

Only at the last step, while preparing for the meeting, does the CEO realize that the indicators are lower than expected. At this point, nobody is able to explain the difference and there is no time left to dig into the details.

Of course, presenting such disappointing results, the company does not manage to negotiate the desired deal.

How do company results change in an accountable team?

Imagine what could have happened if the organization promoted an accountability culture. If not already included in the briefing of the delegated task, the trainee would ask about the goal of the analysis. While analyzing the data, she quickly realizes that the numbers are not in line with the expectations.

As she has been working directly with the customers and documentation, she knows that the contribution for the past quarter should have been much higher.

The trainee calls the accounting department to discuss the issue and together they discover a reporting mistake that has affected the data. They fix the mistake on the spot and the trainee sends the correct slides to the manager.

The manager – surprised to learn about the challenges that this task uncovered – contacts the accounting department to discuss how they can prevent such mistakes in the future. The executive, in turn, shares the conclusions with other related departments to ensure that the same improved quality standard is implemented across the organization.

After delivering the presentation to the government, the company manages to negotiate a beneficial deal for the taxation terms.

This example demonstrates how an accountable organization can not only increase their chances of achieving individual results but also work on process improvements to increase the overall quality standard across the entire company.