Being in the learning & development field, I know that as soon as I use the word “accountability,” people start running for cover. And it’s not just non-management employees that run for the hills, I’ve seen plenty of folks in leadership positions shy away from the word and struggle with what it really means.

The kicker in all this is that – even after seeing resistance to the mere mention of the word – people still want accountability training to take place.

So I ask you then; since accountability is an important topic to discuss, is the apprehension some have towards the word “accountability” really necessary?  

From a strictly professional standpoint, when I hear of a request for accountability training, it’s usually because a certain “negative” event took place or there has been some frustration with employee results. Accountability is about giving employees the tools to meet expectations when delegating to them by letting them know exactly what the manager wants.

In other words, accountability sets people up for success.

When I talk about the importance of delegation in our live sessions, I emphasize the clarity of outcomes and challenge the attendees to shift their mindset from being sternly demanding – to one that acknowledges accomplishments. This shift is not only inspiring to the employees….it is inviting as well. You aren’t asking your employees to play the role of “bad cop” or of a “tattle tale”; it’s simply just asking your teams/co-workers to be clear about expectations. And the root cause of many accountability issues is quite simply just an issue of clarity.

Orange figure raising hand in a crowd of gray figures with crossed arms

Training that brings that sense of responsibility into the idea of accountability is more inviting and – therefore – is more likely to stick. If employees know what their managers expect when they are given a project, and why and when they expect it completed, that is cause enough for celebration – a delegation celebration.

On many occasions, a managers’ reluctance to delegate is actually well-intended; they believe they can do it better, they believe it will be more time-consuming to teach someone else how to do it, so they just think, “if I do it, I know it will be done correctly and we can move on to the next task at hand.” That reluctance is meant to provide a quality result and take responsibility.

It’s great that managers feel committed to getting things done, but holding on to projects and knowledge is limiting to the entire group. How can one learn if they aren’t given the opportunity to take on new tasks? Managers who stay limited in this way may end up blocking their own opportunities for advancement, and their staff will not be growing in all the ways that they could be, so they get restless and possibly resign.

So embrace the word “accountability.”

It doesn’t need to evoke a negative reaction, and it doesn’t always need to be associated with negative performance. At the end of the day, accountability benefits the sum of all parties.

So celebrate accountability. Celebrate delegation.

They are actually pretty good things.

Author: Shawn Muller, Manager, Learning and Development