November 8, 2018

4 Ways Accountability Plays a Role in Success or Failure

In the chaotic world of rapidly growing companies, taking risks to innovate and move forward is part of the deal and, coupled with those, chances can be rewarding successes as well as some notable fails. What happens next in either scenario can significantly shape the culture of your company.

Accountability is a common buzzword, and it’s one most companies seem to value. And yet, aside from the notion of someone taking responsibility for their actions, we don’t dive deep into what it means and the implications of what happens if you create an environment where it thrives - or doesn’t.


Whether you are the CEO, a leader, a new manager, or an individual contributor, accountability begins with you. Behave in the way you want others to in your organization. Stated intentions are irrelevant; you must walk the walk.  If you take ownership of something, people need to experience you meeting those obligations. As a leader, this is extraordinarily critical. It’s imperative to take accountability for the failures your team has; not just the successes. The more senior you become, the more important the ability to take accountability becomes. When your team doesn’t believe that your words will match your actions, you lose serious credibility. Worse, their behaviors will begin to emulate yours. One person’s failure to take accountability contributes to a culture devolving into one where no one feels compelled to take responsibility.

Bottom line:  Your words must match your actions.


Taking accountability isn’t just an on-time action; it’s a mindset and behavior that should always be lived in.  Those who choose not to subscribe to the importance of accountability will often look for loopholes or opportunities to take it only when it suits them. This approach lacks the consistency and credibility that comes from your colleagues understanding taking accountability is core to your behavior patterns.  People don’t want to be in the position of second-guessing your motivations and where you stand.

Bottom line: You need to be seen as being accountable at all times.


You can only control your own behavior, not anyone else’s.  That said, you can be clear and consistent about your expectations for those you surround yourself with. If you hold the accountability bar high for some members of your team, but let it slip with others, you are setting the tone for inconsistency and selective accountability. This way of operating requires support and nurturing; it’s rare you can say “I expect you to take accountability” and people just do it. You can build the skills and lessen the anxiety that often comes with taking accountability by being clear about your expectations, providing a safety net to share when things are going off course and redirecting them, and giving encouragement when their actions are leading to positive results.

Bottom line: There has to be a clear and consistent strategy on how accountability is implemented and validated on your team and in your company.


No one enjoys failing. Even if we can rationalize the great learning experiences that often accompany it, it can still leave one feeling anxious and unmotivated. However, when individuals and/or teams choose to take accountability in these situations, they are putting themselves in the driver’s seat. They are able to take control, move to solution mode, and course correct. Failure to take accountability can result in the work becoming a spectator sport.  Worse yet, finger pointing and throwing others under the proverbial bus ensues. When this happens, teams suffer and culture erodes.

Bottom line: Accountability is the single biggest differentiator between successful and unsuccessful teams.

Regardless of where you operate in the company, accountability touches everything from doing your job to the way you interact with your co-workers. When every person takes responsibility for their work, they contribute to further the goals of the company.  When inconsistent accountability exists, it can not just make or break a team. It can ultimately make or break your company.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator