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Accountability is a tough term.  What do you think of when you hear the word?   Perhaps belittling, finger wagging, or being watched?’s first synonym for hold accountable is “place blame for wrongdoing.”

Not exactly positive, happy dance material. However, accountability is key to an extraordinary workplace culture.

First shift your team’s thinking about accountability.  Create a new definition.  Make it “count-on-able” – where you can count on your co-worker to follow-through.  Or consider the “ability to count,” the ability to have someone’s effort and energy count, to have their work make a difference and an impact.

Holding people accountable is to witness both when someone is being successful and when they are struggling.  Second, when you see success, follow up with meaningful appreciation and recognition.  High performers, and those who are set up for success, love accountability.

However, if you have someone on your team who is struggling, you’ve likely been asked to “hold them accountable.”  But what does that even mean?  Hold them in check?  Hold one’s feet to the fire?  Consider instead, supporting, coaching and guiding them to success.  To a point. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

If someone isn’t pulling their weight or isn’t being kind and there’s no reaction, things get wonky fast.  When you say nothing, you give unsaid permission to perpetuate bad behaviors.   Subpar behavior or performance becomes normal, accepted.  A new, low standard is set.  Identity is questioned and pride is lost.  Mediocrity sets in.  Caring slips.

Let’s be clear who’s accountable for accountability – you are.  Everyone on your team is responsible for being a stand for the team’s success.  However, the leader sets the bar.  Lastly, you must both define character and competency expectations, and not allow circumstances to define commitment.  You are the catalyst.

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
C.S. Lewis, novelist and poet

Want to learn more about accountability?  And a whole bunch of other really valuable workplace culture topics? Read Culture Works!

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1.9 min readLast Updated: October 12th, 2021Published On: July 11th, 2017Categories: Employee Performance Improvement, Improve Employee EngagementTags:

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