Ownership and accountability – 5 obstacles and 6 enablers

In this post, I will talk about why ownership and self-accountability matter, what the conditions to achieve it are, and what are the obstacles.

Before we dive into this topic, let me explain what I mean by “Journey to Scale” or JTS.

An organisation, once it is no longer in START-UP, can be in one of five places: the more stable places which are RAMP UP, SCALE-UP or PROTECT and DEFEND, or the intermediate places which are WHITEWATER and THE MAZE.


The focus of this series of posts is on the competencies needed to get from RAMP-UP to SCALE-UP.

In RAMP-UP the hours the business founders are able to put in at some point become a bottleneck for the growth of the organisation. Leaders in RAMP UP practice a HEROIC LEADERSHIP style. Leaders in these organisations spend a lot of their time dealing with day to day operations, fighting fire after fire, and working an insane number of hours, while their staff go home on time.

In SCALE-UP the growth of the organisation is no longer limited by the hours the business founders are able to spend in the business. Leaders are no longer bottlenecks, but catalysts. The leadership style practised in SCALE-UP is ENGAGING LEADERSHIP. No longer the leader is the hero, but the team.

Heroic leadership work well in RAMP UP, reaches its limits in WHITEWATER, and is unsuitable for SCALE-UP. When leaders have learned to practice ENGAGING LEADERSHIP – and this takes time and effort to master team members are fully engaged and demonstrate a strong sense of OWNERSHIP and SELF ACCOUNTABILITY.

So this is a post for people whose organisation is in WHITEWATER, and who want to move away from heroic leadership, and are willing to take ownership of the goal to become more engaging leaders and feel self-accountable to take actions required to get there.

Why do ownership and self-accountability matter?

Employees with a sense of ownership and accountability don’t hide behind job descriptions or use systems and processes so that they can stay in their comfort zone as much as possible.

A sense of ownership and self-accountability is what makes an employee anticipate customer needs (internally and externally) and seek to meet them. Employees with a sense of ownership and accountability see their roles as dynamic and flexible. They are proactive, and willing to collaborate and support their team members. They are constantly looking for opportunities to improve the way things are done. They never hide behind the phrase “It is not in my job description”.

The first thing to know about accountability is that you can’t hold people accountable. Either people feel accountable, or they don’t. Either people take ownership, or they don’t.

Take the example of meeting a budget. Either the person takes ownership and feels accountable to do everything in their power to meet the budget, or they don’t. For someone to feel fully accountable, there must an acceptance of ownership for the result. Without it, the person will never be fully committed and keep hiding behind excuses.

I see 6 main obstacles to ownership and self-accountability

1. No vision

2. Unclear goals

3. Too many goals

4. Lack of identification with the goals

5. No plan

6. Unwillingness to execute the plan

And now to the 5 enablers

1. Clear vision

2. Goal and role clarity

3. Meaningfulness

4. Agency

5. Supporting environment

So, there you have it. A short overview of what ownership and self-accountability are all about, the main obstacles and key enablers.

If you want to explore how you implement this in your organisation, click on the link below to  book a free one-hour strategy session.

I hope you found this post useful. If yes, please share it with a friend.

In the meantime

Take care, stay safe, and get meaningful work done

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