Regardless of what your job title or industry is, if you’re managing people you’re managing accountability. I’ve had experiences of meetings where the actions roll over week after week because individual responsibility is not confirmed. This is very frustrating and after a couple of weeks, a waste of time. Whether you’re managing change, projects, programmes or a team of people, it is essential that any responsibility given is responsibility accounted for.

You may recognize this story as it is often used when talking about accountability.

“This is a story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.  Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”


As a professional manager, you may have had experience of working with this group of people. How do you avoid this situation while keeping your staff on side and focused?

  • If you don’t set expectations for your employees, they can’t be held accountable.Make sure that each member of your team has a thorough understanding of their role and what is required of them. Make clear what they need to do, by when and to what standard. If you do this, you know exactly who to go to when the time comes.
  • Setting expectations doesn’t mean they will be delivered. You have to get commitment from your colleagues because you can’t assume that just because someone has been told to do something they will do it. Then, not only will they be accountable, they will be reliable.
  • Follow up on expectations. It’s important to keep track of progress being made by each employee as it affects the overall success of what you’re trying to achieve. You may want to set up regular meetings to check that work is being done, and how well. This is also a good opportunity to get feedback from your team.
  • Don’t ignore issues with people or projects. You should provide feedback to the team and also on an individual basis. This can both prevent and solve problems and feedback will encourage staff to do the best they can and to keep up with what you expect of them. It’s only fair that if you are setting standards, you let your team know how they are measuring up and, importantly, help them to improve if necessary.
  • Don’t be afraid of consequences. This doesn’t mean punishment; you can create consequences for when people struggle to meet expectations that will help them to develop. For example, if someone is consistently struggling to meet their deadlines, they may be taken off the team or given a different role, but follow this through withtraining to help them to move forward in the future.
  • Be consistent when you evaluate processes. Make sure that the previous 5 steps are working, you will notice if they are if tasks are getting on time by the right people! Never just assume that this system will continue to work if neglected, be systematic to ensure accountability is not overlooked.

Finally, employees are more likely to feel appreciated and be more effective when you align their personal responsibilities to business objectives. This is, of course, a win-win situation, because then everyone is working hard for shared goals.