What is the Goal of Accountability?

Hockey goalie

I was surprised to discover that “What is the goal of accountability?” is a fairly common question.    For some of us, accountability comes naturally, it’s part of our nature.  However, if you’ve led a team, you know it isn’t always a common trait and it can be difficult to instill in others if the conditions for accountability aren’t perfect.  When someone isn’t clear on the goal(s) of accountability it becomes that much more difficult to make the changes necessary to create a culture of accountability.  So, I’ll address the goals of accountability.  After all, to paraphrase Steven Covey, we must start with the end in mind and “the end” is our goal.

In order to understand the goal of accountability, we need to first define accountability.  Accounting is a process of counting or computing.  It derives from the Latin word computare which literally means to compute.  The suffix ability changes the meaning of accountability to “has the ability to compute.”  However, the meaning has expanded from simply computing to following any process.  So, accountability is “the ability to follow a process.”

With this understanding the primary goal of accountability becomes obvious, it is to ensure that all the processes in your business are executed properly. The benefits to your team being accountable are far-reaching.

Benefits of a Culture of Accountability

Most importantly having an accountable team is required if you want to create a learning organization, one that constantly improves and grows.  When everyone is doing their job correctly the bottlenecks become obvious.  These are the areas where productivity is slower.  This is your opportunity for growth.  When you remove bottlenecks you improve efficiency, you get more done with the same effort.  Improved efficiency means increased profits.

When teams are accountable, they provide a consistent and predictable customer experience.  Customers want to know they will get the same experience every time.  McDonalds built its empire on this concept.  At one point, Mickey Dees was the most successful franchise ever. This wasn’t because Big Macs are the best burger ever cooked but, every Big Mac I’ve ever eaten has been the same.  Consumers would prefer consistently good to occasionally great every time.

Accountability begets accountability.  When your team is accountable and you have a culture of accountability, it is easier for new team members to be accountable.  People want to fit in.  No one wants to stand out by being the screw-up.  Also, if your culture makes it easy for people to be accountable then new employees won’t be as prone to hiding their mistakes.

Finally, it is easier to identify your weak team members.  Believe me, they will stand out and they won’t have any viable excuses.  You’ll be able to identify them, their weaknesses, and the action plan needed to bring them up to speed or let them go.  Either outcome is a win.

Are you struggling to hold your team accountable?  Let’s talk about it. 


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