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Creating a Culture of Accountability: Strategies for Leaders and Employees

by Mar 9, 2023Leadership, Small Business Leaders

When I think about a culture of accountability I think about how it relates to integrity. If you’ve been following my Wednesday Morning Memos, you have heard me talk about T.R.I.P. The I stands for integrity, meaning you do what you say you will do. That relates to accountability, which is the acceptance and obligation to carry out that agreed-upon responsibility.

Accountability is an essential factor in an exceptional, high-functioning workplace. Accountability ensures that each employee is invested in the success of the business and that they will strive to seek results that are best for the team. It is vital to build a team that fosters workplace accountability since accountability will be reflected in the accuracy and efficiency of the work produced by the employees. 

Holding employees accountable will help to highlight the importance of the responsibilities concerning the business. Personal accountability in the workplace will result in higher productivity, workplace satisfaction, and a stronger bond between the team members.

Three challenges to creating a culture of accountability

  • Lack of clarity: This issue is particularly challenging as it can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications, which can create a ripple effect throughout the organization. Without clear expectations, employees may not understand how to meet their responsibilities, leading to poor performance and accountability issues.

  • Inconsistent enforcement: Inconsistent enforcement of accountability policies can create confusion among employees, undermine the credibility of leadership, and damage morale. If employees believe that some individuals are not held to the same standards as others, it can create resentment and a lack of trust.

  • Avoidance of responsibility: When employees avoid responsibility for their actions, it can create a culture of blame-shifting and deflection. This can undermine teamwork, trust, and productivity and make it challenging to address issues effectively. It can also lead to a lack of accountability, as employees may not feel responsible for their actions.

How can these accountability issues be addressed?

Lessons in Accountability: Tony Hsieh’s Innovative Leadership Style at Zappos

One real-life example of leadership and accountability in the workplace is the story of Tony Hsieh, the former C.E.O. of Zappos. In the mid-2000s, Zappos struggled financially, and Hsieh decided to pivot the company’s business model to focus on customer service and company culture. Hsieh believed that if the company could create a culture prioritizing customer service and employee happiness, financial success would follow.

To create this culture, Hsieh implemented a set of core values that defined the company’s approach to customer service and employee engagement. He also encouraged all employees to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities and to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for their actions and decisions.

One of the most significant examples of this culture of accountability occurred in 2011 when Zappos announced that they would move their headquarters from suburban Henderson, Nevada, to downtown Las Vegas. The move was risky, as it meant that many employees would need to relocate, and the company was uncertain if they could retain their employees.

Rather than leaving the decision to the executives, Hsieh asked all employees to vote to decide whether or not to move. In the end, over 80% of employees voted in favor of the move, demonstrating a high level of commitment and ownership over the company’s direction.

This example shows how a culture of accountability can be fostered through solid leadership that values employee input and encourages ownership and responsibility. By empowering employees to take ownership of their roles and decisions, Hsieh created a culture that prioritized accountability and drove the company’s success.

Unfortunately, Tony Hsieh was killed in a fatal fire in 2020 at the age of 46. Zappos was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009.

Want to learn more about accountability in the workplace? Consider my eLearning course on this topic. Creating accountability that is built on trust and integrity is crucial in creating a workplace that is a safe and stable place for all to work. Be sure to check out my Wednesday Morning Memo on successful small business leadership. You might also want to ready my blog post on Change Management for Leaders.

You can find out more about all my courses at You’ll also get a free 45-minute coaching session with me when you complete this course. 

About Henry:
Henry is a Leadership Coach and Mentor. He helps Owners and Executive Leaders develop their teams to grow their business so they can have more time, more results and more money. To learn more, Henry offers a FREE discovery call  check out the details on this website.