How to create a culture of accountability

BEST RESULTS: Everyone needs to wear the hard hat of accountability.
BEST RESULTS: Everyone needs to wear the hard hat of accountability.

The most common problem I have seen in almost 20 years of business consulting and leadership advising can be described as ‘not being able to get people to do what I want them to do’.

Sound familiar?

The answer is to create a culture of accountability where everyone, including you, does what they say they will do.

It can be summed up in the mantra ‘results not excuses’.

One of my clients, who will remain nameless as he will be embarrassed about me telling this story, has a great way of creating accountability in his small team.

He is a supervisor of a team of tradesmen.

Every morning at their toolbox talk he outlines priorities for the day and he covers off on any information that the team needs to know.

When he wraps up the talk he taps the side of his hard hat, on the letters written in black marker – R.N.E. and says – “and remember guys, results not excuses”.

The team generally laughs and sometimes scoffs at this, as it happens every day.

What Jim (oops) has done, is to clearly communicate his expectations.

To spell it out, he expects that at the end of each day every team member will have delivered on what they were tasked to do, that is to produce results.

However, if there was some reason why that was not possible, each team member knows they are responsible for either sorting the barrier or problem out or bring it to Jim’s attention so he can.

It is simply not good enough to give an excuse at the end of the day why the job was not done.

What goes hand in hand with this expectation is several other things that Jim has to do in order for his team to produce results.

He has to make sure that every team member has what they need to do their job. This includes skills, equipment and a thorough understanding of their responsibilities. In addition, Jim looks for confirmation from each team member that they personally accept their responsibilities.

It doesn’t end there though.

Jim has a responsibility to each team member to give feedback on their performance, both good and bad.

If they do exactly what is expected of them, he acknowledges it and thanks them. He makes sure they feel valued for their contribution.

If their performance is below expectation, he finds out why.

As previously established, they have the right skills, equipment and understanding to do their job. It is important that Jim provides this feedback, both good and bad, immediately, frequently and consistently.

If you have trouble getting people to do what you want them to do check the following

  • you have clearly communicated your expectations,
  • you have ensured your people have what they need to do the job,
  • they have accepted responsibility
  • you give them feedback on their performance.

If you want your people to give you results not excuses it is up to you to create the culture of accountability.

Greg Mowbray is a leadership speaker, author, mentor and consultant. Email him at