Written by Akhila Mohan CG

During our growing years, all we had learned was to focus on improving our scores, IQ and functional skills. The life skills classes were often taken over by a science or history teacher to finish the pending curriculum. Although behaviour was given importance to some extent, it was always the student with good scores who was given the most respect. 

But not anymore. The world today is flooded with success stories of people who were either school dropouts or didn’t do well in studies but what helped them outshine all others were the abilities like decision-making, higher emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication skills, etc. 

Two such behavioural skills which can make a huge difference in your company’s work culture and performance are qualities of ‘ownership’ and ‘accountability.’ What most of the leaders and CEOs have in common today are these two essential qualities. And here in this article, we would discuss why you should put special focus on these two qualities during your hiring process.

What is Accountability and Ownership?

Forbes did an interesting activity with different teams trying to understand their perception about three related terms– responsibility, accountability and ownership. And they realised that each of these words which seem so similar in meaning held different meanings to different people.

Both the terms, ‘ownership,’ and ‘accountability,’ are often used together in professional discourse and collectively means individuals and teams taking responsibility for the quality, success or failure of the outcome of their works.

Few arguments that can differentiate ‘ownership’ and ‘accountability’ are:

For example, consider Sam, a hardworking corporate professional who was called by his boss and promoted to take charge of a team to improve the quality of its output. In this situation Sam was made accountable for the performance of a team and its members by someone external who is his boss.

To excel in his newly assigned role Sam would take ownership of the tasks provided to him by his boss. He would make sure that the team’s doubts are cleared, meetings are held on time, and the team is provided with best possible resources and scaffolding to finish the work. Also, if there is a crisis or challenge it would be Sam’s responsibility to resolve it to ensure that the work is done. If after doing all this he fails to ensure the completion of the project even due to lapse on any member’s end, then it would be Sam who would be held accountable.

Why Build a Culture of Ownership and Accountability in the Workplace?

American business magnet and CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014 Steven Anthony Ballmer had once said that,

“Great companies have high cultures of accountability.”

The opposite of this is true as well. Companies which foster a culture of ownership and accountability are certainly on their success path.

This is because if your employees exhibit qualities of ownership and accountability then they would be self-motivated to give their best even when no one is watching.

Ownership and accountability help in fostering a positive work culture and better interpersonal relations among colleagues and lead to better outputs.

However, research shows that 82% of managers feel that they have limited to no ability to hold others accountable and that 91% of employees would say that effectively holding others is essential for leadership-development needs. Hence, companies must know how to foster a culture of ownership and accountability in their work environment.

How to Foster a Culture of Ownership and Accountability in your Organisation?

You can foster a culture of ownership and accountability in your organisation by practising the following ways during the work process: 

Last but not least the most direct way to do this is to look for ownership and accountability during the hiring process. These innate behavioural skills can’t be taught to employees. Hence, it is better to assess the candidates thoroughly during the hiring process.  

How to Test candidates for Ownership and Accountability During the Hiring Process 

It would be difficult to understand the attitude and behavioural abilities of the candidate in just a single interview. A combination of the following methods can bring you closer to accomplishing your goal of assessing the candidate’s quality to take Ownership and Accountability. 

Above everything else, to foster a culture of ownership and accountability in your organisation you must set an example as a leader. Your team will only follow in your footsteps. Unless you exhibit the qualities of ownership and accountability your employees won’t show enough motivation. As leadership coach Courtney Lynch has rightly said, 

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”