Is Your Organization Horrible at Holding People Accountable?

Author: Bryan Ritchie

If there is anything that is more talked about and less actually done about than accountability in virtually every organization I know of, I’d like to know what it is. Truth is, holding people accountable, including oneself, is just plain hard. Admitting failure, or telling someone else they’re failing, isn’t usually pleasant. As a result, we often avoid the confrontation until all that’s left is let people go or leave ourselves.

EVERYONE talks about accountability. “We need to be accountable.” “We have an accountable organization.” “Success comes from accountability, etc.” But what is accountability, really? In simple terms it is being responsible for making something happen, the results of which, whether positive or negative, must be answered for to someone else.

In most organizations accountability happens once a year: at the annual employment review. If it happens before this, it’s almost always because someone is being let go from the organization. Ask yourself this question: when was the last time you worked for an organization where you had a regular accounting to an individual or group of people on your performance against strategic goals you set for yourself? If you’re like most people, the answer is never!

Ironically, the way you can tell a high accountability organization from a low accountability organization is by whether they keep their highest quality employees. Turns out, highly motivated, skilled, and productive employees greatly appreciate a culture of accountability in an organization. The opposite is also true: weakly motivated, low-skilled, and lazy employees appreciate a culture of low accountability. If your great employees leave and your less-than-stellar employees stay, you probably have a low accountability environment.

The answer to this problem is simple to say, but hard to do: implement a schedule of accountability. Create a regular (weekly is best) team meeting where team members come together and account to each other on what they intended to do during the previous period to achieve their goals and what they actually did. If you score this as a simple percentage of what they said they’d do versus what they did do, it will become quickly obvious to everyone who the performers are. When the culture of your organization removes the hiding places for your less-than-productive team members, they will either work hard to improve or will leave the organization. Both outcomes are a positive improvement!

Great leadership requires an ability to hold oneself and others accountable to the outcomes everyone agrees are most important. Not only will regular accountability sessions ensure that everyone answers for their efforts, but will illuminate whether you have chosen the right goals and whether your team is capable of achieving them.

Bryan Ritchie and James Western are co-founders of GrowthSPORT, a successful consulting company whose mission is to improve SCORES (Stimulate Culture, Optimize Results and Engage Staff) for Teams, Divisions, Departments and Organizations through the SPORT model (Strategic Alignment, Personnel Performance, Operational Execution, Results Accountability and Team Strength), which are the Five Core Elements of Success.

GrowthSPORT provides resources, tools and experienced consultants to effectively implement the SPORT performance model from companies ranging from Startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Feel free to reach out to GrowthSPORT at (801) 676-2500 or at


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