Accountability is a funny word. It’s often taken to be a negative. For example, an employee might be held accountable for their failure to meet a deadline. In reality, it’s one of the most beneficial words people in businesses can use.

You see, accountability isn’t about blame. It’s about establishing clear boundaries around results, and in the process defining who is responsible for the delivery of those results. When accountability becomes a synonym for blame, the organisation changes from one with a culture of learning from mistakes to one with a culture of defensiveness and blame shifting. I certainly know which I prefer.

By the same token, accountability isn’t about motivating staff. It doesn’t have some type of magical power to make people perform. It follows, then, that using accountability as an excuse to club people with a nightstick isn’t very useful. This stems from the false assumption that fear of the consequences will motivate people into achievement. A very unlikely prospect indeed.

To properly use accountability within your organisation you need to really understand its purpose. As I said above, it’s about establishing clear boundaries around results, and in the process defining who is responsible for the delivery of those results. Implicit in this definition is an open and transparent culture, where employees are not afraid of accountability, but embrace it and use it to direct their team and individual actions. Don’t fall into the blame trap.