Some of the biggest challenges that I see with businesses relate to communication and accountability. When something goes wrong, our gut reaction is to identify who is at fault and reprimand them. More energy is put towards finger pointing, scapegoating, and denying responsibility than resolving the underlying problem. This culture of blame can be toxic to managers, employees, and the long-term success of a business.

Let’s take a look at the difference between blame and accountability and how you can put systems in place to create a culture of accountability in your organization.

Blame vs. Accountability

The dictionary defines accountability as “the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable”, whereas blame is defined as “an act of attributing fault, censure, or reproof”. There’s a big difference there: Accountability emphasizes everyone keeping their commitments and performing their job in a respectful atmosphere, while blaming is an emotional process that aims to discredit someone and ultimately shame them for making a mistake.

Accountability emphasizes everyone keeping their commitments and performing their job in a respectful… Click To Tweet

Suppose that an engineering team misses a deadline for delivering some specifications for a new product. The management team had been constantly adding urgent requests to the group’s already full plate and members of the engineering team prioritized these ‘squeaky wheel’ requests. As a result, the engineering team may blame management for overloading them with urgent requests and management blames them for missing a key deadline.

Now, suppose that the engineering team agreed to be accountable only for delivering the new specifications. Rather than readily accepting these urgent ‘squeaky wheel’ requests, the engineering team notifies management that these requests are out of the scope of their current work. If management still wanted to pursue them, the team makes them aware of the trade-offs associated with those requests and resets expectations for the deadline.

Making It Part of Your Culture

You can’t have a culture of accountability without clear and effective communication. In the example above, the biggest difference between the two scenarios was that management set clear expectations and the engineering team communicated with management when urgent tasks went beyond the scope of those expectations. The simple act of open and honest communication helped avoid the temptation to assign blame.

Download Now: Organizational Accountability Quiz

There are four core components of accountability:

  1. Set Expectations – You need to set clear expectations for a project or task, including each person’s role and responsibilities and specific results, time frames, and effort levels. It’s important to make sure these expectations are reasonable and attainable.
  2. Get a Commitment – You need the other person to commit to meeting these expectations, as well as buy into the benefits the project or task. It’s usually best to get these commitments on record and in writing so that they are not debatable.
  3. Measure Progress – You need to ensure that there are tangible ways to measure the progress in meeting the goal. For instance, a sales person may need to close a certain number of leads each week to meet a monthly sales goal.
  4. Remove Roadblocks – If there are any obstacles in the way, you need to immediately identify and remove them before they snowball and derail a project.

In addition to these four components, the most effective organizations have strong relationships between leadership, managers, and employees. Employees should feel comfortable coming to managers to discuss any roadblocks that they’re experiencing without worrying that they will be reprimanded for missing a deadline or making a mistake. The same goes for managers going to leadership teams to discuss any higher-level issues.

Putting Systems into Place

It’s one thing to talk about establishing a culture of accountability, but how do you actually implement these practices into a living and breathing organization?

I typically use the Entrepreneur Operating System – or EOS® – to help companies improve communication and create a culture of accountability. While there are many different strategies out there, EOS® provides a crystal-clear framework and the tools needed to actually implement the ideas in practice. Even if you don’t use EOS®, however, I think the core ideas can help you when building a culture of accountability.

The process starts with the creation of an Accountability Chart that crystallizes the roles and responsibilities for everyone in the organization. After identifying the right structure for your organization, you come up with the major functions needed to execute your vision over the next six to twelve months and then define five roles that the owner of each seat should obsess over every single day to be successful in meeting those goals.

Next, you must ensure that everyone has a number that they’re accountable for reaching. For example, a salesperson might be responsible for calling a certain number of leads each day. These numbers are essential for creating accountability and drawing a clear path from expectations to progress. If you’re calling 10 people per day and close 10 percent of leads, you can reasonably expect to close one sale per day and reach a goal of 20 sales per month.

Finally, you create an Issues List that provides a venue for open and honest communication designed to remove any roadblocks without assigning blame. If there’s a manufacturing delay, the sales team might have a hard time closing deals and experience delays. It’s important that everyone in the organization be on the same page when something like this happens so that there’s no blame going around if problems in one area cause issues in another area.

The Bottom Line

There’s a big difference between blame and accountability. While blaming may be human nature, accountability is the path to success in growing a business. You can get started creating a culture of accountability by clearly defining everyone’s roles, holding them accountable for a specific number, and establishing an open forum for communication about any roadblocks.

Download Now: Organizational Accountability Quiz

If you are interested in creating a culture of accountability in your organization, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation. Over the past 20 years, I have helped over 75 businesses regain control over their operations and truly accelerate their growth by turning EOS® inside out and applying these principles in practice.