It helps if a team shares a sense of humor or gets excited about the same sporting season. It helps if they’re all hanging out after work, or have kids in the same school.  But, all of this can amount to nothing if these coworkers do not share a culture of accountability.

Defining Accountability

Accountability in a team setting simply means there is an agreed upon the external force that either bestows consequences or rewards for meeting or failing requirements.  This is done by providing clear, non-negotiable expectations for the team, and aligning them seamlessly with company goals.

When leaders set the tone for accountability, the team gets focused on delivering for the organization. In turn, trust and respect among team members are built and productivity can skyrocket. 

Conversely, if the execution of tasks starts to slip consistently and is forgiven consistently, high performers on your team will soon get frustrated and could assume: 

“If he is an hour late every day without telling anyone, why can’t I do the same? Why is that acceptable?” 


“I don’t have really to have this done by EOW because it didn’t matter either way when my team member didn’t do it.”

Taking Ownership

Encouraging your team to take ownership of their tasks absolutely fosters accountability. Team members will feel empowered if their leaders rely completely on them for a specific task.  Reminding your team member that you trust them to deliver on a project that is their forte will remind them how vital they are. This sense of confidence is the recipe for quality work. Try setting individual and team goals, and truly celebrate when they are accomplished. Goal setting is an entirely different subject and practice, but they essentially provide positive examples of expectations. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, companies that actively commit to giving teams a sense of genuine ownership of their tasks and work life report “higher satisfaction, commitment, and motivation.”

For example: “The last presentation you gave on performance metrics really wow-ed the executive team. You have a real way with presenting how well our team is doing, and I can’t wait to see what next quarter’s presentation looks like.” 

Getting Started

Building a culture of accountability will take time. Leading by example is the best way to get started. Acknowledge when you deliver your task as expected, and own up to when you fall short. For all the in-between, less obvious moments, establish and remind the team of your one common vision. No matter how lofty or seemingly too idealistic, it’s important that the team be striving for the same vision. 

How do you invite a culture of accountability for your team?  Share with us in the comments below!