At BEx 2019, Christy Benoit lead an impactful session titled, “Building an Accountability Culture”.  It was very well attended, an indication of just how important this topic is to business leaders today. 

Christy made a very clear distinction between accountability and responsibility.  Responsibility is taking ownership for doing the tasks associated with some function or project.  Accountability, in contrast, is taking ownership for the outcome or goal.  Accountable people and organizations tend to be more committed and creative when facing obstacles, and it is less common to hear excuses like, “I sent that email”, or “I followed the steps”. 

In addition to helping participants self-assess their own organizations, Christy provided a list of the most common obstacles to accountability and suggested possible solutions to each one as follows: 

Obstacles to Accountability 

Obstacle #1: I don’t understand the goal 

Possible Solutions:

  • Clear Purpose & Vision 
  • Core Values 
  • Ground Rules
  • Role Scorecards with KPI’s
  • SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timeline)
  • Execution Plans (documented)
  • Meeting Rhythms


Obstacle #2: I don’t understand how to achieve the goal 

Possible Solutions: 

  • Onboarding Process 
  • Training & Development Plans 
  • Performance Reviews
  • Regular Feedback
  • Written Processes for Key Business Activities

Obstacle #3: Nobody’s Keeping Score 

Possible Solutions: 

  • Metrics & Key Performance Indicators 
  • Make it Visible 

Obstacle #4: I’m not being held accountable by teammates or leadership 

Possible Solutions: 

  • Zero Tolerance of Mediocrity 
  • Rewards & Recognition 
  • Real-Time Constructive Feedback 
  • Crucial Conversations 
  • Peer-to-Peer Accountability

In all these situations, leaders must model the way.  In the words of Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage others if you can’t manage yourself”.  If a leader does not demonstrate a high level of accountability, chances are very low that employees and the organization itself will be highly accountable. 

For you and your organization, consider: 

  • Which of the 4 obstacles does my team fall down on most?   
  • What is the ONE most important action I can take to begin to remove this obstacle for my team?