A culture of accountability increases productivity, customer service, and job satisfaction. It removes obstacles like pointing fingers and placing blame.

To build accountability, reword your questions to focus on action. Start with “what” or “how” instead of “why” – the victim, “when” – procrastination, or “who” – the blame storm. Ramp up coaching with the goal of employees meeting expectations and remaining with the organization:

  • Never let good work go unnoticed,
  • Never let poor work go unnoticed, and
  • Never let them go down a dead-end road.

Keep the coaching conversations going to foster accountability. Check in with employees regularly to find out what they feel like they are doing better at than the last time you talked. Discuss goals for what employees want to get better at. Set up a plan to develop those skills. Offer resources to help employees in their development and reaching goals.

Use the “word picture” technique to show employees how they can exhibit high performance behaviors. This technique uses specific and highly visual behaviorally specific words to paint the picture of what accountability actually looks like when employees are demonstrating it.

Consider what you have communicated to employees. Could you identify the specific behaviors that are expected? Could two strangers observe those behaviors? Could two strangers grade those behaviors? If not, go back and paint a clearer picture with highly visual behavioral information.

To create the culture of accountability, develop personal accountability in others – especially leaders. Here are the most powerful ways to develop accountability:

  1. Challenge: Delegate tasks and projects with an eye towards development. Force a bit of discomfort and resist the urge to rescue.
  2. Experienced Accountability: Force people to verbalize their commitment and set an expectation up front for “no excuses, no matter what.” Process each individual’s work with them to account for their results.
  3. Developmental & Performance Feedback: Great feedback has two parts – here is what you are doing that is helping and here is what you are doing that is hindering. Powerful feedback comes from leaders who have done and are doing their own work.
  4. Self-Reflection: After giving short and consistent feedback, leave employees with time to reflect. Prompt them to share their learnings and to present a plan for moving forward differently.

Accountability comes down to four basic steps: