Top tips for building an accountable culture

Amanda Fajak

Creating an accountable culture – where people make promises and keep them – is critical to organisational success. Here are six key ingredients that will set you up for success.

  1. Accountability is not responsibility. They are related but different
    A great way to build an accountable culture is to get clear on your language. One common area of confusion is the difference between responsibility and accountability, made especially difficult as there is no other translation for accountability in some languages. Here is the difference - Accountability has an embedded idea of a two-way relationship - you can’t be accountable by yourself whereas responsibility and personal responsibility is an individual behaviour and mindset.

  2. There are different roles in an accountable relationship
    As we have said, accountability is a relationship between two people - each of whom has a different role to play. One person is the asker - the person who makes a request/ asks for a promise and the second person is the giver - the one who will commit to the promise and delivers what was asked of him/her. Understanding the different roles in place and what each one is expected to do is essential. Each holds important elements for the success of delivery.

  3. Remember… there is a difference between a promise and a best intention
    How often do we feel let down – we hear someone tell us ‘no problem’ to a request to deliver or ‘I’ll do my best’. Why have they not delivered? The reality is that we can be casual with our words and not be clear enough on whether we are 100% committing to do something or whether we simply have a good intention to deliver but whether do or not depends on a whole range of other priorities… asking people to be clear around whether they are making you a promise or whether they are giving a best intention ensures clarity.

  4. Don’t underestimate the power of a clear request
    Making good requests is a critical foundation for accountability. The Asker needs to make sure he/she is making a clear request that is explicit, and explains why and when. Importantly a good request allows people the space to consider the request, negotiate and even say no.

  5. Success involves getting really good at assessing risk and negotiating
    One of the biggest challenges most organisations face is that people say ‘yes’ to easily. We talk about the value of a ‘wise yes’, whereas an asker you feel confident that if someone says that they will deliver that they will do so. The key to getting to a wise yes is negotiation – as an asker give people the chance to say no, and negotiate until they and you are confident they can deliver. As the giver consider the risks and have the courage to negotiate. Remember your word is your bond and your reputation is built on your reliability, so take the time to negotiate.

  6. Invest more effort before a promise is made
    Spend more time before a promise is made getting clear on the request, considering the risks to delivery, and negotiating something doable – where this happens you spend less time on follow-up and having to deal with non-performance.


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