Setting up a Culture of Accountability within Your Company

The US Office of Personnel Management states that more accountability in the workplace leads to a more deeply committed workforce and higher employee satisfaction and engagement. How exactly can you define accountability within your company and what are some ways to implement a culture of accountability?

Creating a Sense of Ownership

Part of creating a sense of accountability is creating a sense of ownership. A person who simply punches a time clock in order to get 8 hours a day in is not going to be nearly as engaged as one who feels they are a valuable part of a team.

Creating that team culture isn’t an overnight thing, though. There are many things you as the leader of your company must implement in order to create a culture within your company that makes everyone feel empowered and involved.

Some of the things you can implement include:

  • Open lines of communication. A daily stand-up meeting is a great idea. Meet for 10 minutes every morning to ensure everyone is on the same page and any concerns are addressed quickly.
  • Checklists work well to see where everyone is on a project.
  • Use task boards, such as Trello or Basecamp to lay out the work that needs to be completed, tag specific people with tasks, and keep track of where everyone is in the process.
  • Set goals. If there isn’t something to be accountable for, there isn’t much point in having accountability. Set project deadlines and goals to meet and then encourage employees to surpass those goals.

Setting the Example as the Leader

Goal setting and communication might be at the heart of accountability, but you also have to provide your employees with the support they need to meet goals.

  • Make sure employees know they can come directly to you if they have concerns about the process, need additional resources, or just want to brainstorm ideas.
  • Set goals for yourself and be open about where you are at in meeting them.
  • Ask your employees to set some goals for you. Believe it or not, they know your strengths and weaknesses just as you know theirs. They can help you grow as a leader and a person if you will allow them to feel comfortable enough to constructively present these areas to you.
  • Be swift in fixing any issues where one person on the team refuses to be accountable to the rest of the team. It isn’t fair to the hard working employees to see someone goofing off while they work their fingers to the bone to meet deadlines.

Reward and Discipline

You have to build trust with your employees that they can mess up and still be a valued member of your team. No one is perfect. An employee who is putting forth 110% effort, but misses a key element that has a domino effect is still a valuable part of your team. Use mistakes as learning opportunities to not repeat the mistake.

Handling Mistakes

If the mistake is detrimental to your company, call the employee in for a one-on-one meeting with you and the team leader. Explain that you value the employee and want to work with him or her to figure out how to avoid the same mistake in the future. You might even want to share a time when you made a similar mistake early in your career and what you did to fix it, so the employee knows you understand that mistakes happen.

Ask the employee for his or her input on what went wrong and how best to fix it going forward. End the meeting on a positive note, telling the employee you’re glad they are part of your team and that this is a growing experience for everyone. The employee should walk away feeling uplifted and not ripped to shreds.

Rewarding Effort

At the same time, when an employee puts forth extraordinary effort, or surpasses goals, don’t be afraid to reward that employee. A weekly Friday meeting where you pass out awards and gift cards for a job well done can cause everyone to strive toward better work. Reward the highest performing team with a catered lunch, tickets to a local dinner theater, or some other prize of significance.


There are times where you are going to have to discipline an employee. Some situations must be addressed quickly if you want your team to work hard for you as a whole. These include an employee who is chronically late, doesn’t pull his weight on projects, or is rude to other employees.

These types of conversations are never easy to have, but if you are going to run a company of true accountability, have them you must. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Never humiliate an employee by calling him out in front of his peers. Instead, schedule private meetings to address issues.
  • A verbal warning is fine, but if the behavior continues, you should write a warning out so you have a record should it become necessary to terminate the employee.
  • You also should have a clear method of termination. One verbal warning, one written warning, final warning, termination. This avoids the appearance of discrimination and also forces you to directly address the problem behavior(s) instead of focusing on personality.

Terminating employees is never an easy decision, but it is sometimes necessary to keep the company culture positive and moving forward. Strive to work with employees when you can, but if you find it necessary to end a work relationship do so professionally and swiftly. Then, protect yourself and your employees by changing key card access and informing security of your decision.

Accountability Culture

Creating a culture of accountability in your organization takes time, consistency, and a focus on building a positive work environment. The more satisfied employees are at work, the more likely they are to stay in a position. This saves you time and money in recruiting and training new employees. The effort to create such a positive environment is well worth the investment.