What does it mean to BE Accountable?

Keith C Norris
2 min readDec 6, 2023

Subtitle: Changing the definition of Accountability

What does it really mean to “hold someone accountable?” Do you really know?

We all like it when others are accountable but why is it so scary for us to be held accountable ourselves?

It seems that the popular definition of accountability is often interpreted as : “to fire them”. When you hear about a government leader or the media calling for someone to be “held accountable” it usually means that we all expect them to loose their job.

Accountability is a very loaded term that can carry huge meaning but it is often misunderstood, or not commonly understood. Or at the very least, not understood with a common definition for all.

Merriam Webster Defines it as:

Accountability: the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Words like accountability can have a very loaded meaning and can be misunderstood if not properly defined by leadership in any organization.

How To Improve Accountability in your Organization:

  1. Make a formal declaration of the definition of accountability as “to account for”.
  2. Separate performance standards from the term accountability. It is up to leaders to change the assumed definition that being “held accountable” means to be terminated or otherwise reprimanded.
  3. Encourage accountability at all levels. Everyone in your organization at all levels should be responsible for “accounting for” something. A line worker might be accountable for their hours worked, or their units produced. A manager might be accountable for their teams production.
  4. Encourage self reporting. If you don’t ask people to report their own numbers, you are dismissing the responsibility of accountability. If you want accountability at higher levels in your organization, you need to nurture it at every level.
  5. Encourage your organization to set their own performance goals, and then ask them to report on their performance toward their goals.

Accountability Builds Trust:

One simple method for building trust between parties is the simple act of making and keeping commitments. If the commitments are small at first and build over time, the amount of trust between the parties will increase. If you the concept of Accountability as presented here, the trust in your organization will increase.

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Keith C Norris

CEO of Complete XRM, inc, Fanatic about Planning, husband, father, and road bike enthusiast.