The killers of productivity at work – Accountability

There is something more powerful than motivation and engagement at work that defines our results. It is not something we can take from the outside world, but have to build in our minds. And that something is ACCOUNTABILITY.

Leaders, business consultants, and managers often mistake results with the level of engagement and pull out from the level of motivation, etc.

The most common mistake defining wrong the level of employee productivity is often seen in the engagement surveys companies conduct. After months of preparing, conducting and analyzing results from surveys, most companies focus on explaining how much motivation and engagement define future results.  Leaders focus on hygiene factors that can make people feel more comfortable,  hoping that increasing comfort will increase productivity and results.  They give people what they want and several months after they did that results stay the same, or get better, but people start demanding more and more things to sustain those results in time. And this circle rolls again and again.

Several years ago  I found an interesting approach to leadership and employees productivity and commitment that differs from the above described one. I started using it in my work and advising others how to use it and from then on my perspective on productivity has changed.  This approach is simply called Reality-Based Leadership. You can find more about it in the books of Cy Wakeman.

But after adopting her ideas and tactics I started seeing things from a different perspective.

As I mentioned in previous posts, YOU the leader are unable to change people’s motivation and engagement. These two come from peoples internal worlds and only the person has control over them. There are many types of research,  the ones from  Cy Wakeman team are most informative, who show that there is no real strong connection between results at work and engagement scores. But some researches have found that there is a very strong connection between results and Accountability. The most successful people in the 21st century tend to be those who are most accountable at work. They achieve results, they change the environment and they make an impact on the business.   

I have asked my self the question “What do these people have that make them different from the others? What  is the reason for their accountability?”

After putting in practice what  I learned from the theory  I have found that all the things Cy  Wakeman talks are easily seen in organizational culture and people behaviors.

There are four different factors that impact building personal accountability in work. Here they  are:


The first thing people have to bring on the table when they decide to achieve results is commitment. That means to accept company vision mission and plans of the leadership team for growth. Committed people don’t search for excuses why not to do something, instead of that they talk with positive energy and spirit on what are the possible ways to achieve goals set up from the leadership team. These are the people welcoming change and supporting it fully with their words and actions.


In a fast-moving world, most people don’t have resilience. They need everything now and if they don’t see results at the moment they expect them,  most people become “frustrated”, “demotivated” and “disengaged”.  Those from people who have built resilience are those who are successful.  Resilient people know that results are hard to be achieved, they know that there are challenges and obstacles in a way that has to be moved away. These people know that time, effort and continuous flexible tries are the way to achieve results. They don’t give up by the first obstacle and don’t lose energy level and positive attitude when something does not go by plan. These people are the group of committed to the results employees that succeed in reality.   


Have you heard people talking about how powerless they are in upcoming situations? They wait for someone else to take a decision and care about responsibility to fulfill it in front of the leadership team. In opposite to these people,  those who own their tasks and challenges stand up proudly and admit decisions, defend their positions, put energy to finish the job and stand after the consequences if something goes wrong.  Leaders today often talk about how people can be seen as “owners of the business” they work in. Well, this is another way for leaders to say that they need more people accountable for business results and companies plans for growth. That is why owning your decisions and results is yet one of the key characteristics of an accountable person.

Continuous learning

Well in the 21st-century business world there is nothing worse than an employee stuck in the past.  These people often make it to some point and then they start feeling miserable at work and become a negative energy source. The century we are living in is the century of never stopping learning. People learn from books,  videos, podcasts. They are not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them and the feedback they receive from others. Highly accountable people learn continuously from everywhere. They don’t see information like a threat, but an opportunity for growth.  Now within their positive approach toward growth, they bring also the business growth within.

Yet,  when we have identified what are the characteristics of the highly accountable people, you may ask yourself how to build this accountability to help you achieve results and grow.

People with highly accountable behavior use several different approaches to further build on their current state of mind and body and ensure results are happening now and will happen in the future.

Constant challenge
To move forward you need to constantly be out of your comfort zone.  No matter the size of the challenge you face,  you need to see challenges every day. If you stop see challenges in your day then you are stuck in a comfort zone. Staying there can make you less productive, less energized and less ready to face the changing environment. It can generate a temporary discomfort, but then you just get comfortable in the zone where you see you can’t do enough to move forward, learn how to complain effectively and search for external factors to explain your lowering productivity.  To be the highly accountable person,  everyone seeks when a challenge occurs and everyone sees as e result achiever you need to continue searching challenges that can improve your skills, knowledge, and results.  

Accountable learner

As someone, accountable to the business challenges you need to learn constantly. That means to use every opportunity to learn how to upgrade yourself. The areas you must cover to be successful today are not only professional knowledge and skills but also skills on how to impact others behavior for positive results.  The accountable learner can be briefly described as a person learning from feedback,  taking things from mistakes, made in work and life, finding new sources of knowledge and information and utilizing others as sources of knowledge and skills for building successful future.

Self-reflecting individual

For most people, it is easier to show others mistakes and teach them how to overcome challenges than to look back at themselves. Being a self-reflecting individual means to start looking at yourself to identify your strengths and areas for development. If you can identify both sides by yourself and accept either the strengths and the areas for development than you are ready to move forward to the path of change and growth.

Mentoring form the colleagues and environment

Most people today are open and show themselves in social networks by building an image of an imaginary hero, ready to face challenges and overcome obstacles. But in reality, most of these people are afraid to ask for help if they want to improve something in their lives. To be different and succeed, you will need to learn how to use other experts to help you grow. That means to overcome your fear of exposure and start asking colleagues in your work how can you improve.  The best mentors come from the environment you work in, so why missing the opportunity to improve yourself by using their strengths and knowledge?

Leaders today often miss the important factors to grow results in their companies. They look at things like motivation and engagement and focus on them to improve performance. But still, it doesn’t matter much if your people are motivated or demotivated, engaged or disengaged. It is their choice and you need to accept that you can’t change it, no matter how much you want it. But if you want the real result you will need to be the leader who shows and seeks accountability. Today, people learn from examples. If you want them to become accountable then you need to learn how to show them what accountability means. Nothing else matters so much and can change results for good so quickly. 


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