December 6, 2023

Small Business Advice

A businessperson who is accountable focuses on results, not the job

Jerry Osteryoung | 1/30/2017

"At the end of the day we are accountable to ourselves - our success is a result of what we do."

~ Catherine Pulsifer

Webster defines the word “accountable” as “Subject to having to report, explain or justify being answerable and responsible.” However, this is a terrible definition because it makes accountability sound like a negative thing. I think a better definition of accountability is this: “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve desired results -- to see it, own it, solve it and do it.”

According to this definition, a person who has accountability asks what else they can do to achieve the results they desire and takes action. It is about getting people to do more than they think they can. This is not a negative thing at all.

Accountability turns the work paradigm on its head. Rather than focusing on the tasks required to do a job, a person who is accountable focuses on results. In order to be successful, a business must focus on results, not the job.

How many times have you heard employees say, “That is not my job”? That is the mentality when people are task driven. They tend to see their jobs as doing tasks rather than achieving results.

However, when you change this paradigm around and put the focus on results rather than tasks, you find employees are so much more willing to help one another. The tendency is to do whatever is necessary to get the results rather than just accomplish a task.

So many of the firms I work with only expect employees to do the job. They do not encourage accountability, and just about all of these firms are struggling or doing poorly.

In a growing and dynamic environment, we must do things that bring the highest returns to our businesses and organizations. The key to this is accountability.

Synovus Bank, for example, has been around for over 125 years. They have signs at every branch and in its headquarters that say, “100/0.” The “100” stands for 100% responsibility, and the “0” is how many excuses there are for failing to give great service in every single transaction. In essence, you take full responsibility for your own success and that of the bank, and you never make excuses or blame others.

This philosophy of accountability is instilled in each employee, and it shows in Synovus’ customer satisfaction and profitability.

So how do you change the paradigm at your organization? I think the process of adopting an accountability program involves getting staff to realize being accountable is the only way they can get to the goals and objectives they desire. This normally takes time and requires you to share a lot of information about the problem and the financial ramifications, but eventually, they will get it.

Now go out and consider adopting a philosophy of accountability for the good of your firm as well as each individual staff member. Your job as a leader in your organization is to enable each of your staff to achieve the highest levels of success they can. That requires leading with accountability.

You can do this!

Dr. Osteryoung has directly has assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is a bestseller on He can be reached by e-mail at

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