Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

5 Tips for Creating More Accountability

I got a lot of very positive feedback on my recent post: How to Create an “Ownership Mentality” on your Team. Then I came across this superb post on the American Express Open Forum (a really good site). I think if you read both of these posts – you’ll have a very good handle on what it takes to build a stronger culture of accountability within your team or organization.


“As business owners with 42 things to do to get through the daily grind, not to mention long-term business goals to pursue, most of us are constantly seeking new ways to create accountability – to drag ourselves (kicking and screaming, if necessary) to the finish line.

Here’s five ways to build accountability into your daily routine:

1. Declare goals publicly. This functions on many levels. In terms of an entire company, it could mean publicly stating an ambitious goal and tying it to a date. In terms of individuals, it can mean declaring your goals in front of those you respect – your team, your inner circle of friends, or your family. The moment that you tell someone else you ARE going to do something, an outside gravitational force takes hold, making you feel more duty-bound to reach your objective.

2. Share your planning documents and to-do lists. Whether it’s a timeline with project milestones or a regular old list of to-dos, sharing your working documents transparently with your team builds trust and increases accountability. Essentially, it’s a passive way of publicly stating your agenda and creating a powerful accountability mechanism for getting things done. If your colleagues notice you are constantly missing milestones, they’ll start asking questions.

3. Rewire your focus on short-term rewards. We love instant gratification, which is why it’s so much easier to get the small, no-brainer to-dos done than the big tasks that require deep focus and hard thinking. We can spend our whole day just responding to emails, while we neglect the long-term future of our businesses. Rewiring is about finding ways to take pleasure in the long haul required to truly achieve great tasks and cause real change. We can’t get rid of our desire for short-term rewards, but we can be aware of it. The first step is identifying your long-term goals, and setting up a series of short-term rewards that keep you moving towards – and accountable to – those goals.

4. Leverage fighting to stay on track. In a work setting, we often shy away from arguments, thinking that easy agreement (and not rocking the boat) is preferable. But particularly productive teams actually encourage healthy fighting, where coworkers duke it out to explore all of the possible solutions for a given problem. While a quick consensus is comfortable, vigorous debate means our teams will stay accountable to finding the best solution.

5. List out action steps after brainstorming sessions and impromptu gatherings. Accountability often slips through the cracks when we get high on the rush of a good meeting or an ad hoc conversation about a new idea. To ensure that these daily insights get captured, every meeting of the minds should end with a quick recount of each person’s “action steps.” No amount of talking about the future helps if we don’t ensure that we’ve articulated the very concrete next steps necessary to get there.”

***This post by J.K. Glei is based on research by the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think tank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.

Note from John: So, in essence, this is all about open, transparent communication and keeping everyone fully informed. It is clear, the more information you give to your people, that more you can hold them accountable for doing something about the situation. After all, people cannot fix a problem that they do not know about!  Hope that helped — John