What Is Accountability?
Definition: Accountability is defined as an organizational culture in which employees or workers are not only responsible for what they do but also accountable to face the consequences of their activities.
It can also be defined as the willingness or readiness to take responsibility for one’s failures, judgments, and actions and explain the reasons behind such failures and deviations from the expected norm.
When people or employees are held accountable for their actions or performance, they assume ownership of their own actions as they know that they will face the consequences.
Some of the examples of accountability can be the auditors who are responsible for reviewing the financial statements of a company should also be accountable for any sort of error or material misstatements in their financial statements.
In the same way, accountants need to be accountable for their commitments of ensuring integrity and accuracy in their financial statements.
Accountability is one of the important features of public administration, for example- San Diego won the Award for Excellence in the Public Administration category of Helen Putnam Award for Excellence for resolving the issues of mismanagement and fiscal challenges by creating a unique new department focused on transparency, efficiency, and accountability.
Accountability is usually equated with blameworthiness, liability, and responsibility for actions about ethics and governance. The word accountability itself originates from the Latin word accompany, which means to account. This Latin word, in turn, originated from the word putare, which means to reckon.
Accountability is not viable without the use of standard accounting practices. The concept of account-giving and keeping records can be traced to older civilizations, such as Israel, Babylon, Greece, Ancient Egypt, and Rome.
Without accountability, successful teams cannot thrive and grow, as performance results and accountability go hand in hand. Accountability is seen as a critical component of professionalism and ties in with other aspects such as morality, legality, and ethics.
Methods To Improve Culture of Accountability
In the words of Henry Evans
“Creating an accountability culture is to recognize that wherever you are on the organizational chart, you encourage others to hold you accountable.”
There are various proven strategies and techniques commonly used to create and improve the culture of accountability in the workplace, and they’re as follows:
1. Setting unambiguous expectations
Specificity is key. For instance, a manager instructing his subordinates to complete a given task with the highest standards and as soon as possible is ambiguous and is bound to cause confusion and disrupt the work.
Specificity here would involve the manager telling his subordinates the deadline for a given task and being clear on the standards that the quality of the given task needs to match. This is because the terms “highest standards” and “as soon as possible” are subjective and can mean different people.
2. Creating and maintaining trust and safety
Safety here refers to the psychological safety experienced by the staff in the workplace. Such safety is crucial to communication. Fear in the staff or co-workers is a sign that these individuals may feel disrespected or neglected about their goals and ideas.
Mutual respect and empathy are key to creating psychological safety, which can lead to feelings of trust. Managers need to identify and diagnose any feelings of mistrust or fear at the earliest, and then communicate respect and empathy to foster a healthier work environment. It is imperative to find common ground and improve things for all individuals involved in the workplace.
3. Having Self-accountability
This strategy is imperative for improving accountability in the workplace. Any individual in the workforce, regardless of position or status, can benefit from starting self-accountability. This concept of self-accountability is commonly referred to as “the internal locus of control” in personality psychology.
An individual with an internal locus of control is likely to believe that all things that occur to them and around them have some degree of influence from their actions, mistakes, and decisions. Conversely, an individual with an external locus of control will feel and blame external forces such as luck and external factors for events that occur to them.
What Is the Accountability Puzzle?
Created by Henry Evans, the accountability puzzle is used to bolster accountable actions and dialogue in the work environment. This puzzle consists of four parts, and they are as follows:
1. Specific date and time and one owner per task
The first two pieces of the puzzle are fairly straightforward to comprehend. Firstly, Henry Evans states that the manager or CEO should be specific concerning the task assigned concerning date and time. Secondly, each task should be assigned uniformly to each person, and a task should only be assigned to an individual, not a team.
2. Managing the accountability gap with clear expectations
Managers and those in leadership positions can and should employ various tools and strategies to ensure that the expectations set for the task are attainable, results-oriented, ethical, traceable, and recorded.
3. Having open accountability from all parties
Leaders, as well as co-workers of subordinates, should hold themselves accountable to their subordinates and peers, respectively, like two-way communication and transparency foster feelings of trust, honesty, and loyalty in the work environment.
4. Sharing the accountability
For developing the culture of accountability, it is important that at least two people know about a particular commitment. So, if a leader is having accountability for fulfilling specific commitments, it would be prudent to make your team your accountability partners as well. When other members also know about your commitments, it will automatically improve individual as well as organizational performance.
Accountability Wrap Up!
On the concluding note, it is clear that incorporating an accountability culture in an organization plays a crucial role in channelizing effective performance discussions and accomplishing better results.
Leaders or managers should hold people accountable in a constructive, supportive, and empowering way without creating stress and fear. And for ensuring this- they should properly convey the purpose behind the assigned tasks and communicate the expectations clearly.
How important do you find the role of accountability in improving individual as well as organizational performance? Share your opinion with us in the comment section below.
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