Ownership, Responsibility & Accountability

Ownership, responsibility and accountability are key characteristics of high performing teams. It’s no wonder that so many businesses I work with list these characteristics in their core values. Yet I find very few companies or organisations who understand what it truly means and who live these values in their day to day operations.

Why is accountability such a high priority in most businesses?

When we don’t hold ourselves and others accountable, we get into the habit of leniency. If it is allowed to happen once, it becomes a little more acceptable for it to happen a second time. Tolerating missed deadlines or targets eventually become common place and people learn that the real deadline is a week after the published one, that being 10 minutes late for a meeting is the norm, and missing a target is OK.

So how can we increase accountability in business?

Defining accountability

In order for accountability to become entrenched in the workplace, there needs to be constant discussion about what it means.

Ownership is about taking the initiative to do the right thing. It’s about taking the bull by the horns, driving the process and not assuming it is someone else’s responsibility. Accountability is about follow through… getting done what you said you would get done, without reminders and prompting.

It’s about recognising that your team and your customers are dependent on the results of your work and not letting them down. It’s about open, pro-active and honest communication and keeping everyone informed on the status of your commitments because you understand that your work impacts on their ability to meet their own commitments.

It’s the very basis of trust, without which a high performing team can’t operate.

Leading from the front

Accountability starts at the top. When the leaders of the company can stand up and be counted, when they lead by example, they visibly demonstrate their expectations of their teams.


Business leaders lose the most respect when poor performance isn’t dealt with and poor performers are able to continue without repercussion. A lack of accountability needs to have consequences and those consequences need to be consistently applied. On the converse, accountability has positive consequences that need to be celebrated and rewarded.


Show the numbers. By sharing the key metrics in the business, leaders demonstrate commitment to the result and communicate a clear expectation to other team members.  It also creates healthy workplace competition, where recognition is a positive consequence of accountability and missing a goal that is openly shared will encourage the team to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

Eliminate blame, excuses and denial

Being accountable does not mean you will never fail. It simply means you take responsibility for mistakes, avoid finding excuses or someone else to blame, apologise for them, fix them and learn from them.

An accountable work environment leads to trust, high performance, improved staff morale, job satisfaction and ultimately an increase in your bottom line. It’s time to stop paying lip service to these core values and to start demonstrating them in every aspect of your business dealings.

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