Choose Your Actions but Not Your Consequences – 3 Tips for Creating a Culture of Accountability and High Performance

A great leader once taught me that “you can always choose your actions but you can’t always choose your consequences.” In other words, we are always accountable for our actions, from completing mundane routines, to resolving complex issues, to our interactions with colleagues and clients.  Our actions, or lack thereof, have an organizational impact and consequence for which we are ultimately accountable.

We have all in been in those organizations where accountability is promoted in principle, but where excuses and lack of performance become the tolerated reality.  Blame and complaints are accepted in lieu of accountability and people deliver excuses rather than results.

While the concept of “total accountability” may seemingly denote an organizational culture of stress or fear, in reality, it is the foundation for a culture of engagement and high performance. Accountability is the mindset within an organization that drives employees to hold themselves and others, individually and collectively, to a standard that improves the performance of the organization. 

Total accountability, becomes, in essence, the measurement tool that assesses whether or not results are being achieved; when they are not, accountability provides the evaluative tool to reset the course and get back on track.  

So, rather than tolerating a culture of excuses, we should be building a culture of accountability and high performance that inspires engagement, bolsters determination, rewards commitment and allows innovative solutions to happen.  Here are 3 tips with practical action steps to build such a culture: 

  1. Capture the Vision – Leaders who clearly set and communicate the organization’s strategic objectives and culture provide that needed vision for employees.  Once employees understand where the organization is going, they can all ‘row in the same direction’ to get there – together.  Setting expectations and modeling the behavior is critical to embed that culture of accountability. Spelling out not only where the organization is going, but also how it is going to get there, sets the tone for engagement and high performance.
  2. Define and Align Roles – When employees, at any level, make the connection between the impact of their actions and the organization’s strategic objectives, light bulbs go on and accountability becomes a reality.  To embed this connection at the fundamental employee level, it becomes a leadership imperative to design and communicate roles that are clearly aligned with strategy, performed by the best person for the role with metrics in place to keep performance and direction on track. 
  3. Empower, Recognize and Learn – Allow employees to see themselves as architects of their own circumstances. Most employees pride themselves in their professional abilities to own a situation especially when it comes to applying known solutions to predictable, or routine, tasks and challenges. However, they attain that higher level of total accountability (innovative solutions are created despite tough odds), when leadership:
    • Empowers employees
    • Recognizes success and achievements in appropriate and meaningful ways
    • Allows room for employees to recognize, fix and learn from their mistakes (within reasonable boundaries)

When leadership designs the work environment for accountability, it will flourish. Are you leading your organization to accountability and high performance?

Prism Partners International can help you develop and deploy strategy, business models and related action steps that will align, empower and engage your organization, at every level, in a culture of accountability and high performance. Through our practical operational experience, and innovative assessments and analytics, we can focus and align management actions and employee performance to achieve improved profitability. 

Please contact us to learn how we can help.  We invite you sign-up for our weekly blog posts at  We also ask that you join our LinkedIn Group (Strategic Human Capital Alignment Forum), Like Us on Facebook (Prism Partners International) and Follow Us on Twitter (@PrismPartners).