Personal Development

Creating a Culture of Accountability

Are your employees accountable for the work that they do? Do they feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work? Are they driven by their results and achievements? 

We caught up with Sharon Amesu, host of our recent Vistage webinar ‘Creating a Culture of Accountability,’ keynote speaker and workplace culture specialist, to learn more about why accountability is so central to employee performance—and how to embed it into your culture. 

Sharon was a criminal barrister for sixteen years before turning her skill sets to leadership development and professional speaking, and says that accountability is absolutely central to shaping behaviour and encouraging people to contribute positively to their environments. 

Here’s what Sharon had to share.

Accountability, Not Blame

We might think of “accountability” as synonymous with finger-pointing. With blame. With negative consequences. And with fear.

But accountability and blame are two very different things. Here’s why. 

“When the question is asked ‘who is to blame?’, our immediate response is to withdraw and to shrink back,” Sharon explains. “We’re not going to want to put our hands up because, by extension, there are going to be negative consequences.” 

Instead, accountability is about taking responsibility and knowing you can count on the people around you, rather than finding fault and reproach. 

“Accountability is much more about empowerment. It’s about learning and growth. It’s about candour. It’s about courage. And it’s about helping people be the best they can be and having robust systems in place where people are clear of what’s expected of them.”

That way, when people make mistakes, they aren’t afraid to come forward. And instead, they can explore how and why the mistake happened—as well as how to prevent it from happening again. 

“When people are able to speak up, be honest about challenges, have a sense that this is a place they can grow and fail safely and can ask questions when they aren’t sure about something because they know it’s not going to lead to condemnation or career limitation, you’re going to have high performance.” 

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Accountability is About Clarity 

Organisations thrive when people are engaged with their work. When they feel they can contribute, thrive, innovate and grow. When there are high levels of morale and ownership. And when people feel they can use their voice and ask for help when they need it. 

Central to this is clarity on what their leaders expect from them and what fulfilling their role successfully actually looks like. 

“Tonnes of research points to the fact that people become disengaged in the workplace when there’s a lack of clarity around their roles and responsibilities,” Sharon explains. “When there’s a lack of clarity around how they’re contributing and the difference they’re making.” 

In fact, less than half of all employees (38%) actually feel like they have clarity on what’s expected of them at work. And when this happens, people can let things slide. They neglect to speak up when something goes wrong. They feel disconnected from their work and struggle to feel a sense of pride in what they do. 

“So, accountability matters to performance. It matters to the ability for people to make and keep a promise. And it makes a difference to trust.”

So, how do you start to build this sense of clarity and accountability in the workplace? 

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How to Create a Culture of Accountability in the Workplace

Creating a culture of accountability is about reframing, reshaping and fixing the focus of your organisation from blame to ownership. From finger-pointing to clarity. And from scapegoating to responsibility. 

So, how do you do that? 

First, it’s about regularly checking in with your people to keep the finger on the pulse of how they’re feeling. 

“Ask your people the extent to which they are clear about their roles and responsibilities, the extent to which they feel that their contributions are making a difference and how safe they feel about making mistakes and asking questions. Then, measure these responses over time,” Sharon says. 

Second, it’s about measuring team performance as a whole and how well they’re working together on a daily basis. 

“Are the team working well together? Is there good morale? Are they effective? All of those things help you to really understand to what extent accountability, candour and courageous conversations are operating within your organisation.”

And lastly, it’s about role-modelling and leading by example. 

“By being a responsive leader who role models and leads by example, who gives opportunity for people to ask questions because they do too, who acknowledges that they don’t have all the answers, who doesn’t blame and shame and scapegoat, that’s how you start to build a culture of accountability in your workplace.” 

Take Your Leadership to the Next Level

If you found this article insightful, why not sign up for one of our upcoming Vistage CEO Climb events? 

Ran by leadership experts, executive coaches and motivational speakers, our events are designed to give you all the insights, tools and methodologies you need to take your leadership to the next level and help your team thrive. 
See what’s coming up here.

Category: Personal Development


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