Why Is Accountability So Important?

You’ve heard of “accountability” — but can you define it?

This term has become a corporate buzzword, but it remains largely misunderstood. Employees often view accountability as punitive or retroactive, associating it with blame or punishment for lackluster performance. What’s more, it can be easy to miss the crucial differences between accountability vs. responsibility.

So what is accountability, really — and why is accountability so important to business leaders?

While responsibility connotes duty and discipline, accountability, by contrast, is a positive, proactive choice to take personal ownership of existing problems and potential solutions. True accountability, according to the New York Times bestselling book The Oz Principle, is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”

Here are three ways that accountability can transform your workplace, promoting success both at the individual and organizational levels.


The Positive Cycle of Accountability and Results

The most compelling case for accountability may be the simplest: high rates of individual and organizational accountability propel better top-line results — and in turn, these results support a Culture of Accountability®.

Building a culture of accountability in the workplace requires clarity and alignment around desired results. Leadership teams should identify the top three to five Key Results that the organization must achieve in order to be considered successful. Key Results must be meaningful, memorable, and measurable, and communicated clearly and consistently to every employee within the organization through a top-down approach.

When employees have clear targets toward which to work, they are able to see the connection between their day-to-day tasks and the organization’s success. As such, they are inclined to take accountability for delivering on Key Results. Accountable teams See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It®: they see the problems hindering Key Results, own their role in accomplishing Key Results, solve existing problems through creative problem-solving, and do what they say they are going to do by delivering on results.

Accountability Promotes Employee Engagement

Employee engagement levels are crucial to an organization’s top-line performance. In fact, highly engaged workforces outperform their competitors by upwards of 145% of total earnings per share.

Unfortunately, the global workforce is facing a complete crisis of engagement: according to Gallup, only 13% of employees are engaged at work. In turn, disengagement — the result of a lack of accountability in the workplace — leads to low levels of productivity and innovation among employees.

On the other hand, accountable employees take psychological ownership for seeking out solutions that will promote a company’s Key Results, which naturally promotes engagement in the workplace. Accountability empowers employees to not only recognize the critical gaps between current and desired results and take ownership for closing those gaps, but also to employ creative troubleshooting in order to develop and implement effective, innovative solutions to existing problems.

Accountability Creates High-Performance Cultures

According to John Wright, Director and VP of Marketing at MCGB Properties Ltd., “Accountability becomes embedded into corporate culture by establishing meaningful goals and team buy-in, building trust through support and encouragement, empowering everyone on the team and celebrating successes together.”

It’s true: when accountable employees collaborate to create meaningful solutions and drive desired results, they create a comprehensive culture of accountability. In a culture of accountability, employees collectively seek feedback from peers and leaders to pinpoint performance gaps, take ownership for closing those gaps, strategize in order to create innovative solutions, and follow through on their promise to achieve desired results.

By establishing a culture of accountability, the organization is able to elevate its performance across a variety of metrics: with greater accountability comes accelerated speed to market, greater ability to adapt to change, increased organizational growth, and higher rates of individual and team achievement.

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