Your guide to kick-starting accountability

It’s easy to play the blame game, easy to point fingers when things go wrong – as much as many people would like to distance themselves from this kind of behaviour, our need to show everyone that we were in the right can sometimes lend itself to these kind of knee-jerk reactions, even from leaders. Accountability can be tough pill to swallow at times but it’s something that every team needs and every leader should be prepared for.

What is accountability?

The difference between responsibility and accountability is overlooked by plenty of leaders, but the two do have some important differences. There are plenty of analogies out there when it comes to teams and leadership but perhaps the most poignant to show the difference between responsibility and accountability is that of the sports team.

Of course, it’s the players responsibility to keep fit, to know the sport inside and out and to get on the field and perform their different roles to secure a win for their team. Each person has their own job within the team and if they don’t individually perform, the whole team can suffer. If they lose – usually as a result of each individual not performing their role effectively – it’s the captain and the coach that need to answer for what went wrong, even if they weren’t to blame. We saw this in action earlier this year with the Australian Cricket team – everyone has their part to play but at the end of the day, the leaders answer to the public.

So, where does it go wrong for so many teams?

Pride – No one likes to be wrong and no one likes to fail, it can feel even worse when it’s someone else’s mistake that you need to answer for. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us and leaders are no exception. Pride gets in the way and makes everyone do what is best for themselves, rather than what is best for the team, especially when it comes to answering to those who want to know where it all fell apart.

Lack of communication – Too many leaders give vague instructions or simply expect their team to perform miracles without properly informing and equipping them. It makes it easier to point the finger at team members when things turn sour but it doesn’t help the team grow and move forward to become high performers.

3 tips to improve accountability in your team

  1. Reinforce values – high performing teams are shaped by the values they hold. When teams know what the organisation values, they feel more in tune with their role within the team and know why the part they play matters.
  2. Trust each other – having someone look over your shoulder all day while you work, can be off-putting. The temptation for many leaders is to hold the hand of everyone in their team to make sure the job gets done but this only fosters an environment where team members feel as though no one really thinks they’ll get the job done.

  3. Be clear with expectations – it can be frustrating if the leader does not set out clear expectations. Leaders should never be vague about what they expect – each team members should know exactly what’s expected of them so they can perform their role to the best of their ability.

If all of these things are in place and functioning, it becomes easier for leaders to step up to the plate and give answers when things go wrong. None of these tips are miracle cures for failure or mistakes, they simply put your team in the best position possible to bounce back and to troubleshoot so they can improve next time.

If you’re ready to kick-start accountability in your team, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.