What is accountability and how it improves business.

Yes, you “know” it’s a good thing – but what is it?

I speak to many business owners and practice managers and one word that often comes up is accountability when discussing improvements to the firm.

Why is accountability a good thing?
It’s generally thought to be a good thing, a bit like medicine – it’s great if you’re giving it to somebody else (shouldn’t “the boss” be even more accountable?).

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It’s often talked about in the context of delegation, performance management and sometimes it’s used in the context of improving meetings.

It’s seen as something that gets things done; so that sounds important. But, what is it?

What is accountability.
There are many definitions around, these are three that I Googled:

The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property. Business Dictionary.
Accountability in the workplace is when everyone is responsible for the tasks that they are assigned and if they do not perform the tasks properly then they are accountable for the repercussions. AskJeeves
In leadership roles,[2] accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. Wikipedia
Common themes then are acknowledging, reporting and transparency. Certainly this fits within the context that I think of it. Having to report the results of specified activities to somebody, possibly knowing there will be consequences of those results.

Accountability versus Responsibility
If I am accountable for something, I have responsibilities to somebody else. This other body will require me to “account” for something. This means that you can be responsible for something, without being accountable. I can be accountable for something I didn’t do; I might be held to account if my dog bit somebody.

How to benefit from accountability
In the vast number of cases I’ve used it the big benefit comes not from the consequences; but from knowing that you’ll have to admit to the (lack of) results. Without any further prompting this gets things done!

This of course leaves the subject of how to hold somebody accountable; for now I’ll just say don’t let it become like a cardboard policeman – they’re not much good at stopping crime, even though they may look good.

Who and how do you hold accountable?

You may also like to read:

How to hold somebody accountable.
Delegation and motivation
How to create a vision for your Business.