December 1, 2023

Building a Culture of Accountability

Shailja Sharma

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Building a culture of accountability will set an organization on the path to excellence rather than mediocrity. Organisational culture encompasses everything from a company’s values and beliefs, leadership styles and operational policies and how these elements work in concert to impact and empower employees.

A culture of accountability enables an organization to achieve excellent results and a high level of growth. Expressing company culture through effective people processes and creating a work environment that is conducive to growth will ensure that departments throughout the organization consistently achieve and even exceed their targets.

A high-performance culture prioritises employee growth and development, focuses on employee engagement which improves retention rates and creates room for employees to innovate and try new things which improves organisational agility. This article aims to elucidate the factors that are critical to building the right culture.

Set the Direction

If no one knows the destination, no one will get there. Many organisations neglect to communicate the ‘big picture’ to their employees in an engaging manner. One key for unlocking human potential is to define the purpose of your organization and connect the people to this purpose. Employee engagement is boosted when people feel a sense of purpose in their tasks and understand the integral roles they play in the overall success of the business. Inculcating a mindset that is focused on performance and growth is achieved when employees feel that they are valued and that they are actively engaged in building something they believe in. Involve your employees in developing the organization’s purpose through company culture surveys, town-hall meetings, and through constant and consistent communication practices and encourage continuous dialogue.

Clarify Expectations

Goals should be set that resonate with the changes in the business environment to ensure they are still relevant to the situation on the ground. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Ensure that employees have all the resources they require to achieve these goals and that the goals set are realistic. It is better to focus on a few key goals then dilute the focus of your staff. If employees are spread too thin then the quality of their output will suffer.

Organisational goals must be linked to individual goals so that they are aligned. Clearly defined expectations at the individual, team, departmental and company level will ensure the company moves in the right direction and that employees have clarity. Linking goals with the ‘big picture’ will also motivate employees and help them understand the broader purpose of the tasks they are working on.

Once employees understand what is expected of them, having an established system to measure performance is critical. Accountability is important. Performance measurement systems and regular meetings between supervisors and their direct deports will help drive performance. A feedback culture will help employees to grow and develop. The system should seek to build the confidence and capability of employees rather than just criticise them for perceived inadequacies.


Recognize and reward good performance. When employees feel their output is valued and recognized, it encourages them to deliver more value. Appreciation and gratitude are underrated in most companies. High-performance teams look forward to delivering outstanding results because they know they are valued.

Check the Culture

Peter Drucker, the legendary management consultant famously said that, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ Good leaders know their strategy must go through their culture to be successfully achieved. Does your culture help or hinder your goals? Create a culture that is healthy, high performing and people-centric. Be intentional about how you shape your cultural norms. Build trust in your employees and motivate them the right way and you will reap the rewards that will be inevitable as your culture shifts to a high-performance culture.

Become Data-Driven and Monitor Progress

Technology can help you track project progress and therefore allow you to course-correct as necessary to stay on track. Data is a business asset that cuts across organisational boundaries and flows through an organization. Harnessing the power of data can help a company improve its processes and minimise inefficiencies, gain insights into market trends, track the progress of goals and objectives and improve resource allocation and deployment. Embracing technology and having the right systems in place will facilitate the process of collecting and managing data.

Finally, it is important to exercise compassion. Supporting your team during times of stress and guiding them will be a testament to your skill as a leader. Never burn your own employees. Remember as a leader it’s important to hold your people accountable but ultimately you are accountable. If they have not performed, you first need to check if there is room for improvement in your leadership. Learn to motivate people and bring out the best in people. Accountability always starts with the leaders in an organization.

Article by Shailja Sharma, SBS Faculty Member and Leadership and Career Coach



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