When it comes to business, human connections are critical – and unavoidable.  For many businesses, employees are a differentiator in their industry; for all businesses, employees are a necessary asset. It’s no wonder there’s an ever-present drive to attract, develop, and retain talent as a means to address strategic business initiatives and growth goals.

With this growth and desire to build a robust workforce comes the need for a strong sense of culture, engagement, and perhaps most importantly, accountability. Accountability is repeatedly found to be an essential ingredient and a foundational driver of organizational success. Engagement in and of itself is not a strategy. It’s an outcome. It’s what you get when you already have accountability for performance. Engagement is what you get when management actually gets better at doing accountability well and consistently.

The problem is accountability seems to make people uncomfortable. At least, holding people accountable does. Even though communication is recognized as a fundamental skill needed as an effective manager and leader, many seem to struggle with challenging situations.  From difficult performance conversations and conflict resolution to uncomfortable feelings, results, or situations, many managers avoid opportunities for substantial learning moments and accountability.

Of course, without the proper training one might avoid those sticky situations as well! It’s important to set managers up for success in order to foster the kind of productive relationships with employees that yield the kind of results everyone wants. Managers who feel overwhelmed or under-resourced, unprepared, or purely results-focused do not take or make the time to coach, and this is because they do not effectively hold employees accountable for their performance in the first place. If you can name it, they can own it; and if they can own it, they can change it. If a manager cannot name it—meaning give the right feedback on the right thing— an employee cannot take ownership for their performance, and therefore they will not change that performance, rendering moot any effort to coach and develop that employee. 

Accountability is a word we all know, but a skill that in practice many don’t really understand. In the workplace especially, accountability is about managing relationships. It’s a mutual agreement between individuals. It is not punitive, it itself is not a consequence, nor is it justice. Its only outcome is clarity around ownership of either actions or inactions and of the choices associated with those actions or inactions. The clarity of ownership is what tells us who is responsible for fixing what’s wrong and making it right.

Ultimately, accountability in the workplace is critical to the success of any business. Understanding its importance is the first step. Prioritizing it as an essential priority is the next. Helping your managers and leaders develop the communication skills needed to execute a culture of accountability is the goal. Doing so will lead to enhanced interpersonal relationships and the achievement of greater business goals.   


Understanding accountability is crucial for the success of your business. Ready to own up and put accountability front and center? Read my book, OwnUp! How To Hold People Accountable Without All The Drama.

Post by Jennifer T Long
February 16, 2022