What is Accountability?

Definition: Accountability means taking responsibility for our actions and feelings. It is a skill, ability, and attitude. It’s about working hard and learning from failure.

Accountability can be described in different ways such as:

  • Professional accountability is making sure that your work in the workplace meets the highest ethical standards. 
  • Ethical accountability means following the rules of your profession. 
  • Legal accountability means following the rules of your employer. 
  • Employment accountability means making sure that the company policies reflect the values you entrust your time to.

It involves taking responsibility for your actions and the actions of others. It requires recognizing that we’ve all got something to learn from each other, that there are times when we need to pause and think about what might be going wrong and then act on it.

Examples of accountability in a Sentence

  • Before you submit your request, you will need to sign an accountability form to use company resources properly.
  • For the woman to lead a meaningful, constructive life, she must acknowledge her accountability for what she has done and what she has failed to do.
  • The problem of personal accountability in the political arena has been a central concern for democratic theorists, and its solution has occupied generations of readers and thinkers.

The first known use of accountability

Accountability is a concept that can be boiled down to “do your job” or “be responsible for your actions.” It was first used in writing in 1750.

How to be Accountable?

Accountability helps create a climate of excellence. It improves the quality of performance without forcing us to lower standards or sacrifice results. It applies to us both as individuals and as employees of organizations. When we are accountable for results, we create the mentality that each achievement is deserved and achieved. This encourages us to work at much higher levels than we are capable of achieving. The results we achieve can be judged by higher standards than most teams and individuals think is possible.

1. Start with yourself

Whether you’re a manager or executive, you must be accountable to others. Hold yourself responsible for your actions and know what you need to do to succeed. To do this, first, define your commitments — things that are required for your success. Then, follow up on them and prioritize them appropriately.

Leaders are more effective in building a culture of accountability in their organization when they hold themselves accountable and ensure that their actions are aligned with the culture they want to create.

Accountability is the ability of an individual to take responsibility for their actions and be the master of their fate. A person with an internal locus of control will tend to take more responsibility and establish more control over one’s outcomes. They believe that they can do better in situations by doing certain things. A person with an external locus of control will blame the environment, other people, or chance.

2. Set clear expectations

By providing specific expectations, you can hold team members accountable. First, list the tasks that constitute the project. Then for each task, make a clear statement about what is expected. Unclear or undefined expectations, lack of clarity, and areas of responsibility without boundaries create accountability gaps.

3. Create trust and psychological safety

You must make sure your teammates know that you care about their success and integrity as much as you do your own. This means treating them with the same respect that you want for yourself. Before you raise any problems or concerns about a team member’s performance, know what you want to achieve. It’s best to figure out what you’re trying to change or improve before bringing up the problem.

4. Use the Accountability Puzzle

Henry Evans created a continuous improvement system called the “Accountability Puzzle.” It focuses on key communication elements, alignment of actions and measurement, to help you do the best work of your life.

The puzzle consists of four pieces:

  • Bridging the accountability gap with clear expectations- A S.M.A.R.T.E.R framework is a great tool for setting attainable goals. It helps you stand out professionally by improving your performance by setting goals in this framework; it is easy to track progress if you keep notes of your progress. It makes sure that the goals are ethical and will not cause any problems for work or personal life. Finally, it makes sure that there is a record of how well you are achieving your goals.
  • Specific date and time– When working with clients, be specific about dates and times. Align priorities and projects with the timing of those you work with.
  • One task, one owner- Only one person is accountable for the completion of a task. A group should not be accountable for the completion of a task. Accountability isn’t a solo sport; it requires teamwork. 
  • Going public and sharing accountability- Asking for help from your team members can make the difference between success and failure. By holding each other accountable, your team can improve results and commitment.

Accountability brings about a level of trust, which in turn fosters collaboration. It also fosters responsibility. Without accountability, it is easy to feel like you’re solely responsible for the results of your work, but this can be devastating in the long run.

It’s a methodology of management that holds members of a team accountable for meeting specific goals or objectives. Accountability is essentially a set of principles, practices, and skills that anyone can use to better themselves as individuals, professionals, and businesses.