Developing a Positive Accountability Culture in Your Business 

by Sean Foster | November 04, 2021 | Newsletter

These are the 8 Accountability focus areas that should be attracting your attention as a business owner. They are: 


[1] Practise What You Preach 

What I have learned over the years is that making assumptions is not always a bad thing: one assumption that continues to serve me well is assuming that others have not had great role models in their lives.  

It is your responsibility to be the role model in terms of your own self accountability. The following points will further illustrate how you can develop your own accountability. I have found that it is massively beneficial to accept liability for many of the mistakes that happen in your business, not because you necessarily made the mistakes directly yourself, but you are responsible for ensuring that the overall systems are in place to minimise potential mistakes.  


[2] Communicate Your Expectations with Absolute Clarity  

Effectively communicating your expectations requires more than a post-it-note or a one-time discussion. Find opportunities to ensure that there is absolute clarity around what is required for the successful completion of a task. Seek confirmation of how the other person understands what needs to be done.  

If you make use of project management tools such as Trello or Asana, or 90-day plans, then ensure that these are utilised fully. 


[3] Balance the Logic and Emotion 

It would be easy for me to say: ‘stay with the rational logical argument’. After all, if you focus on this it becomes a lot easier to drill down and to be specific about what needs to be done. However not everybody relates to having everything laid on the line in this manner.  

Accountability discussions tends to naturally evoke emotional responses, and these can be further complicated by internal politics and personal insecurities. Therefore, it is essential to have metrics and goals set up from the beginning. Be wary of relying too much on your gut instinct.  

There is little benefit in sugar coating the issues. People need to know the specifics of what actions and behaviours led to a specific outcome. Use emotions to better convey the logic rather than emotions dominating the thinking. 


[4] Balance Control and Accountability 

If you would like to develop a culture of accountability, then it is impossible for you to be making ‘all’ the decisions. But neither can you delegate all the decision making if the people that you delegate these to are not equipped to make the decisions.  

They could be ill-equipped because they lack in experience or skills. A lot of learning comes out of the mistake making process. What is required is an environment where when mistakes do occur, there is the belief that these benefit the company in the longer term.  

In your post-event analysis, always spend some time looking at the flip side of the situation. Consider: ‘How may we potentially benefit from this?’ 


[5] Develop Mindfulness 

I have found that developing mindfulness is a never-ending habit. It is something that needs to be continually nurtured and as you might have experienced yourself, those who demonstrate great mindfulness tend to also display humbleness and a lack of unhealthy defensiveness.  

One of the tools that are I have found to be particularly valuable in developing mindfulness is the DISC assessment. Following a full DISC assessment, I have found the following:  

  • People start understanding their own behaviours better  
  • They better understand how other people perceive them 
  • They have a better appreciation for differences in others 


[6] Aligning Accountability to the Company Strategy 

Have you developed your SOAP or company strategy together with your team? If so, it is easier to remind you and to reflect back on the Values and Convictions, Purpose and How We Will Win aspects of the business and how we as individuals show up for work.  

Keeping your business strategy alive by frequently discussing it with your team is a great way of applying the logic rather than the emotion to developing a culture of accountability. 


[7] Support and Reward Positive Behaviour 

If it is not already, I hope that this will be in an ‘aha’ moment for you. When we experience a positive outcome, we should be celebrating this in some meaningful manner. However, what invariably happens is that we celebrate the outcome and almost completely ignored the behaviour that led to that outcome.  

One of the dangers of only celebrating outcomes is that this can lead to the development of impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is a person’s feeling of inadequacy due to doubting their ability to achieve a specific outcome.  

By rewarding the behaviour, you will significantly increase the chance of that behaviour being replicated, and in turn making that outcome replicable. This mitigates the achiever’s doubts that the outcome was due to luck or other external forces, as they are encouraged to focus more on the behaviour that led to that success. 


[8] Maintain a Trusted Environment 

As a business owner and leader your job is to coach problem solving. It is not to blame, provide unsubstantiated negative feedback nor provide all of the solutions. What you want from your employees is that they start applying the experience, training and their own knowledge in confidently solving the day-to-day issues.  

They will only continue to do this if they know they are operating in a safe environment that is free from condemnation, humiliation, nit-picking, or being embarrassed should they make a mistake. To nurture this aspect, I really resonate with the five dysfunctions of a team model from Patrick Lencioni. If you are unfamiliar with his work I highly recommend his book. 

Developing a culture of accountability is an ongoing process, it is not something that you can demand, rather it is a culture that you are needing to continually develop. 

Would you like to explore this subject further? Feel free to book a complimentary coaching session with Sean here. 

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