Accountable is about expectations

Posted 12/23/13

Many people place a negative spin on the notion of accountability. For them it’s something that only comes up when something goes wrong or expected results just don’t happen. But accountability is really much broader than that and encompasses the good, as well as the bad.

Accountability is essential to a successful business. Someone must be responsible or “answerable” for everything that happens, in one way or another. If nobody’s responsible, then nothing really gets done, problems can’t be fixed and innovation can certainly never happen.

Business owners and entrepreneurs are responsible for instilling accountability into their companies. When an air of accountability reigns, people are more willing to step up and take ownership of whatever is necessary to achieve the desired results.

Here are ways for business owners to foster a culture of accountability.

1. Hold yourself accountable first. One thing business owners should know is this: Employees pay a great deal of attention to what you DO, not just what you SAY. Your behavior is often what defines the “culture” of your business, and sets the tone for how others view accountability.

2. Make your expectations clear. Without clear expectations, there’s no way to hold someone accountable. You must make sure that each employee has a clear understanding of two things: What’s expected of them and how that contributes to larger business goals.

3. Provide proper feedback. You can’t expect everyone to inherently understand what being accountable in the business looks like. So in addition to modeling good accountability behavior yourself, you have to provide regular feedback on what others are doing right, where they are falling short and why. Having such conversations is where the accountability process often breaks down.

4. Focus on achieving results, not merely “doing a job.” When people feel like they’re just “doing a job” they are far less likely to take ownership of the results – or lack of them – as long as they’re putting in the time. But that’s not an accountability atmosphere.

5. Create more visibility. This is something many businesses struggle with. People tend not to share information in order to avoid being held accountable. By creating an environment where people and departments (yourself included) regularly share details of their goals and results, you also create an expectation of accountability. •

Daniel Kehrer can be reached at

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