Three steps to accountability and performance

by HCA23 Feb 2015
Australia has slipped six places in four years to 22nd place according to the 2014 - 2015 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Ranking. While such a slide suggests a larger, overarching economic shift, it is also telling of the need for industries and companies to take stock and refocus on building more innovative, high-performing, competitive teams — the types of teams that can only exist where there is a culture of accountability.

Employees who possess a strong sense of accountability go above and beyond the minimum and focus their work effort on the activities that have the highest return or are most closely related to the desired outcomes, to make a meaningful contribution to the organisation’s success.

Companies need people who take it upon themselves to honour the commitments they make to others, whether day-to-day or in challenging circumstances. It involves taking risks by confronting and holding others responsible for commitments, addressing situations with courage and sometimes making a personal sacrifice for the organisation’s benefit.

How do companies focus their efforts on driving accountability as a path to increased performance and ensure they are getting the best out of their employees?

Step 1: Create culture of accountability
In order to provide a constructive work environment, leaders should provide a climate where their workforce is absorbed in their work, where they feel involved in broader business operations and where they feel compelled to honour the commitments made to others. An organisation that is able to develop this climate can then also create conditions that foster accountability including; clarity, linking employees to results and knowledge of results and feedback, all of which move their culture from “business as usual” to meaningful, sustained progress.

Step 2: Leaders need to model accountability
While everyone is accountable for their own performance, management plays a significant role in modelling positive behaviours in the workforce and therefore must improve their own accountability before increased accountability can occur amongst their teams. Once they are aware of their own accountability, leaders can actively encourage accountability amongst their peers by employing eight actions to help average players contribute like top performers. These steps are:
  1. Establishing clear and well-aligned organisational and individual goals
  2. Admitting mistakes in ways that protect credibility, advance problem solving and help peers to the right result
  3. Ensuring employees get the resources and skills needed for success
  4. Addressing differences and building alignment on how goals will be achieved
  5. Resolving dilemmas that underlie business issues
  6. Developing capabilities to effectively provide positive and constructive feedback
  7. Increasing employees’ comfort with handling conflict and providing feedback
  8. Coaching others in how to be accountable to achieve results
Step 3: Provide necessary training and resources
Providing the necessary training and resources for employees is important in equipping them with the right skills and support to improve accountability and build the high accountability culture that drives organisational performance. Therefore, HR and leaders cannot overlook their own responsibility in providing further training to enable their staff to effectively carry out their duties. Part of this responsibility is proactively creating an environment where employees feel comfortable in asking for training and additional resources, and then providing the on-demand, on-the-job and classroom based learning as well as coaching support to give them what they need.

For Australia to regain its competitive edge, in a region where emerging markets are becoming increasingly active, leaders must demonstrate greater accountability in creating a climate where employees fully understand their roles and responsibilities, not just specific to their positions, but also the broader business operations so that they are energised to go above the call of duty and make a meaningful contribution to the team.

About the author
Cynthia Stuckey is the Managing Director of The Forum Corporation in Asia-Pacific. Forum is a recognised global leader in linking leadership development and sales effectiveness training to strategic business objectives. For more information, visit: