Why understanding the baseline of accountability is essential

William Buist, founder of xTen Club, looks at business accountability and why your role matters.

Whether you are the CEO of the company, or someone elsewhere on the totem pole, your role matters. There are various functions that each member of the team, as well as your customers, should be able to count on you to provide. Everyone is expected to deliver on their responsibilities and come through on promises and commitments made.


This is what we call the ‘baseline of accountability’. According to William Buist, founder of xTEN Club, knowing the baseline, means individuals truly know what they are responsible for, why it matters, who is affected, and when their output is needed. They know, and respect, the importance of their contribution. It is something that no one, in any business, is immune to.

Buist says it’s not about being perfect – nobody is perfect – but it is about trust, transparency and honesty. When mishaps happen, the person responsible needs to own that responsibility and take steps to correct it as soon as possible in order to maintain the strategic pace of a project. When people take responsibility, own their mistakes and learn from them things may not yet be perfect, but trust grows.

A common mistake is to think of accountability as an aspect of ‘doing what you are told’ or following the orders of a more senior person. Rather, accountability is about giving an honest account; what’s been done, what’s still to do, what’s been learned, what value has been created. By giving an account regularly employees can establish, maintain and grow trust, as well as capability.

Buist suggests there are four things to watch for when building the baseline of accountability within your business:

Empty enthusiasm

There are often people who like to quote a company’s mission statement and bring a ‘Go Gettum, Tiger’ attitude into meetings. Then the meeting adjourns and they approach their work like a sleepy kitten. They may hope that if they can create enough fanfare it will hide their inadequacies. In most cases, they are not fooling anyone. Eventually, their co-workers come to think that lack-lustre is all they should worry about as well. The overall morale sinks and it becomes an uphill battle to get anyone to perform as expected.

Failing to share credit with team members

Brainstorming sessions help spark creativity and get everyone involved in the big picture. However, sometimes an idea comes from one person, and it is another who takes on its implementation, and gets the credit. It is therefore important that proportional recognition is given to all those involved. This helps to encourage both competition and collaboration. Also, employees who are regularly given credit are more willing to accept responsibility.

Trying to be an absolute boss

While it is important for management to earn and maintain respect from employees, especially in situations where authoritative decisions need to be made, ultimately everyone needs to work together toward a common, aligned goal, regardless of their paygrade. Management whose words and/or actions send out the constant reminder of ‘I am the boss, you are not’ deflates the energy levels of the entire team. This ‘them/us’ attitude stifles creativity and encourages employees to shy away from taking responsibility, as everyone is too busy ‘covering their backs’.

Disrespecting the time and efforts of co-workers

Company rules and regulations are made for a reason – and it’s not to be broken. At every level there are people who continually underperform, call in sick, turn up late, etc. – and they always seem to have a ready excuse. Anyone who cannot be held accountable for their work is inadvertently disrespecting the time and effort of everyone who does show up and put their best effort toward achieving an objective.

No business is immune to the occasional hiccup or bump in the road. When those things happen a business with a strong baseline of accountability, will not only survive, it will thrive and grow.

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