Accountability in business is poorly understood. Many people seem to think of it as being all about “Ignorance of the law is no defense.”

While that rule does apply, it’s not the full story. Holding employees accountable begins with good leadership.

Deciding What Matters.
Before employees can be held accountable, the people in charge need to figure out what they are supposed to be accomplishing. If company goals aren’t clearly defined or job duties aren’t spelled out, employees can’t deliver.

A clear mission statement and a clear idea of why each job exists must be defined by leadership. Once defined, it needs to be put in writing to prevent scope creep, poor memory or other issues from muddying the waters.

Communicating What Matters.
Once leadership knows what the organization is doing and why, everyone else needs to be educated. They need to know both the overarching goals and their specific role.

If they are a brick layer, they need to know “We are building a cathedral.” They also need to know “Completing this wall this week is your responsibility.”

Once they know both sets of parameters, they should be given latitude to work as they see fit. Holding people accountable should not be used as an excuse to micromanage them.

The Benefits.
Employees who are held accountable are more productive and happier. Businesses with good accountability practices are more competitive and outperform their rivals.

Employees who know what matters and have latitude to self manage are empowered to make more effective decisions and better use of their time.

It ends up being a win/win situation. It’s a best practice that makes both employees and management happier rather than pitting them against each other.

People who are clear what their responsibilities are and that they can count on their teammates know “We are in this together.” Accountability helps prevent office politics and other pointless derails.

Freedom and responsibility must go hand in hand. While employees still need to prove themselves as both trustworthy and capable, it’s much easier to achieve that when they are clear what’s expected.