Keys to Nurturing Ownership and Accountability in (Y)our Team

MentorMate
4 min readJan 30, 2024

A culture of ownership and accountability helps business partners on both ends reach a cycle of continuous improvement and set themselves up for success.

As an organization on the delivery end of business partnerships, we view ownership and accountability from two perspectives. On one hand, we own the relationship with the clients and hold ourselves accountable for the work we do for them. On the other hand, we nurture a culture of ownership and accountability within our internal teams to deliver high-quality digital transformation services. With both perspectives in mind, let’s first discuss what ownership means.

Don’t Just Do Tasks — Own Them

When we take ownership of a task, we become personally invested in ensuring it gets done, and done well. Let’s say we own an initiative and need something from another person but can’t seem to get it. When we own a task, we don’t come up with excuses, and we don’t blame a third party. Instead, we get creative and find a way to complete the task according to the set objectives and a high degree of quality by any means necessary.

True ownership also extends beyond the point of a project’s completion. It makes us want to track its success and whether it delivers on its purpose and find ways to improve future iterations. This feeling is where we draw the line between doing a task and owning a task. Doing a task is passive and easily interrupted. But taking ownership is an active process in which we do everything possible to make things happen even when circumstances have been unfavorable.

Owning Our Relationships With Clients

We partner with clients of different sizes and from various industries, but there’s an overarching principle behind our work with all of them. We become invested in the overall relationship with the client, not with a particular project. When there’s a risk or an issue, we don’t hide it and bring it up early. Instead of shying away from sharing bad news, we talk about mitigation steps. Whether the challenge is with us or with the client or in neither of our control, we know we must step in, take ownership, and be a true partner in the relationship. Their success is our success. Their setbacks are our setbacks.

How is this approach beneficial for the client? Their most significant gain is that they end up with a better product. They don’t simply get it delivered on time but receive something that also meets or exceeds the business objectives.

It All Starts With Accountability

Very often, when we talk about ownership, we also bring accountability into the discussion. The two certainly intertwine with one another and are both characteristics of a healthy workplace culture. Owning your work contains a personal aspect, a “my” perspective. Accountability has an external facet. When I personally own my work, I’m personally responsible for it and will do anything to make it happen. At the same time, I’m accountable to the Project Manager for the project’s outcome. Holding myself accountable connects me to other parts of the project, the organization, or the client versus being self-contained.

Accountability also involves consequences, which take many forms — an escalation, a poor rating in a performance review, an improvement plan, or simply a conversation.

The Art of Cultivating Accountability

The delicate thing with accountability is how to foster it within our team. It’s hard to teach people accountability for their actions, but we can demonstrate what it looks like. More importantly, we can create an atmosphere that encourages people to be accountable in their jobs.

Clear and open communication is key to achieving this. When there’s an issue or uncertainty, we shine a light on it rather than hiding it. Once we’ve identified it, we come up with ideas on how to solve it. This sounds simple and standard, but too often, a poor atmosphere stymies results. People or teams can be reluctant to bring things up because they fear retribution. Or that it will negatively impact their review or pay. A transparency mindset makes us feel at ease with all the different scenarios we encounter in our work.

People need a safe place where they can be vulnerable enough to share their challenges or needs. Leaders must demonstrate and mentor their teams on this. An excellent way to do this is for leaders themselves to be vulnerable and share their own mistakes or challenges. Cementing this culture requires us to be open and celebrate when we’ve been accountable and done a good job. In an environment where people assume positive intent and are comfortable starting a conversation on an important topic, a sense of accountability is more likely to flourish.

What’s in It for Clients?

As an organization, we strive to nurture a sense of ownership and accountability in our team to deliver outstanding products more successfully. At the same time, when we take ownership and hold ourselves accountable for the projects’ outcomes, this benefits our clients too.

We’re invested in learning about their business and finding out what the requirements are and why the requirements are so that we can help them solve their business problems. Our clients feel secure because we maintain a clear line of sight to the challenges and areas that need improvement. We offer them the honest truth and a plan on how to improve things, and if things are going well, how to improve them even further.

This approach builds great trust and leads to higher quality, increased engagement from their own staff, and, ultimately, to solutions that better meet and exceed the clients’ needs.

Ownership and accountability are what makes us a trusted partner.

Original post here.

Authored by Josh Marquart

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MentorMate

Blending strategic insights and thoughtful design with brilliant engineering, we create durable technical solutions that deliver digital transformation at scale