Strategy & personal development

Can we count on you?

One of the biggest challenges in today’s world is the lack of accountability. We see world leaders not being held accountable on issues of equality and diversity or climate change, we see celebrities and politicians acting as though they are above the law and it has an impact. We are struggling to know who or how to trust people. And accountability plays a huge part in that.

The constantly changing world and our drive to understand our place in it means understanding that we all have a role to play and we can no longer expect

What is it?

Accountability – the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.

In a business setting, this means making sure that what is required to be actioned is actioned and, if not, then those who have responsibility for those actions can and do answer for them.

Why is it important?

Part of me feels I shouldn’t have to write this section but we all need a reminder right?

Without accountability why would you do anything? For me, a lack of accountability is like saying “I don’t care” and in a work setting that is very harmful.

This becomes even more of an issue for smaller business owners who care so deeply about their business and every element of it, they struggle to understand why other people don’t share that.

How do I develop it in others?

I have created eight points to help you to build greater accountability within your team or your business.

Set clear expectations

One of my favourite expressions is “clarity is kindness” and often we do not set out expectations clearly because;

  • We have an expectation that the person already knows what we want
  • We can’t be bothered
  • We do not wish to offend them by being too prescriptive or micromanaging

I understand the above and have been guilty of them all but if you want to foster greater accountability in your business you are going to have to make some changes.

One of the best ways to gain clarity is to discuss things with your team or the person concerned and ask them to confirm their understanding of the expectations and make sure deadlines are mutually agreed upon and realistic.

Meetings are everyone’s responsibility

This is an easy win and a good first step. When you meet with people in your business make it clear that you are all responsible for making those meetings happen. Time is very precious and so meetings should be prioritised by all parties.

Once you are in the meeting make sure everyone contributes. Ask each member to take responsibility for the agenda, and give yourself the opportunity to observe and coach rather than lead and dominate.

If you always lead then you are creating an expectation that they should always follow – let that sink in!

To encourage greater accountability, you have to hand over the reins.

The team assign tasks to individuals

If you make a decision as a team, it is still best to give key responsibility to one person. It is then clear to the whole team and yourself who is accountable for that deliverable or task.

Encourage people within the team to step forward and take on the responsibility or suggestions from others rather than you assigning a person.

Follow up

Setting expectations and assigning responsibility will have little or no impact if you do not follow up.

Schedule reviews and make sure they happen. Do not leave it until the deadline, check in to make sure progress is being made or if any additional support is required.

There is no point being angry or disappointed in someone failing to meet a deadline if you haven’t held them to that deadline.

“I thought I asked for that to be done by last Tuesday” holds no water here. If you didn’t care why should they?

This is one of the single most important things you can do as a leader. There is no need to be harsh or critical but you must be clear.

All feedback is valuable

Otherwise known as owning up to our mistakes. For true accountability and ultimately a productive culture people have to feel comfortable with admitting their mistakes and highlighting any issues they see.

Ask who was responsible for the task/action and why it has not been successful, then work with the team to find ways to prevent that from happening again.

Encourage open and honest feedback within the team or company and make sure you focus on what you are trying to achieve rather than what went wrong.


It would be easy to fall into the trap of a more toxic leadership style here but that is not what we are aiming for. You should be able to say that if this doesn’t happen the consequence will be something not nothing. If there are no consequences, was it that important in the first place?

Reward wins

This is a no-brainer and again a great activity for teams. Recognition is highly motivating for many. As well as business wins remember to make sure that you reward and celebrate the behaviours that you value as a business too.

Lead by example

Again, this is a big one and you have to admit to your own mistakes and be open to feedback. Actively encourage feedback to yourself on areas where you feel you could do better or ask where the team feel you could improve. How you handle the feedback will set the bar for how feedback is received within the team.

I’m not going to lie to you, it takes time to develop a culture of accountability but it will improve morale, productivity, effectiveness and ultimately the business.

It is another one of those things that are certainly worth the effort…

Good luck!

Mhairi Richardson
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Mhairi Richardson

Mhairi specialises in coaching teams to help them achieve more and improve their wellbeing. Her focus is on building trust within the team and a combination of coaching, mentoring and facilitation and she can tailor the program to the needs of your business. She enjoys working with newly formed teams, established team or teams who just feel they should be achieving more. Mhairi is also a coach with a strong SME background, a focus on the detail, a high level of emotional intelligence and a strong desire to develop talent and grow high performing teams.

Can we count on you?

by Mhairi Richardson Time to read: 3 min