How can I make sure I hire accountable people?

Mar 4 / Victoria Hill

For many businesses hiring people is both fantastic, daunting and risky all at the same time. It’s fantastic because of the great things that can be achieved as a result of the extra input, especially if the person you hire is well-aligned with your mission or purpose, self-motivated and a team player. But it doesn’t always turn out like that. We can sometimes end up taking on someone with superb interview technique, who doesn’t align well with the behaviours, culture and work ethic we’re after. So how do we make sure the people we hire are accountable? And is accountability something that can be learnt? This has been the topic of several recent coaching conversations. I share ways that my clients have found successful for gaining vital and accurate insights both at interview and on the job. 


Accountability means different things to different people but taking responsibility for one’s own actions and results usually comes into it somehow. We often see accountability emerge in problem-solving situations where an individual makes a choice between a blame mindset or an accountable mindset. By an accountable mindset, I don't mean taking responsibility for other people’s errors or incompetence, but rather a mindset which conjures up the question “okay, so we're not where we want to be - what can do about that?”

"People are either accountable or they're not." 
I must beg to differ. 

To uncover this at interview, scenario-based questions which explore common challenges in your business are a great way to encourage someone to talk through the way they approach problems. If your candidate shows curiosity for working out why and how a problem has arisen, that can be a sign of somebody who is pragmatic, open minded and accountable for the role they can play in finding a solution. If your candidate rapidly becomes critical, looks for blame and overlooks the fact that they may themselves be contributing to the problem, it may indicate your candidate is not willing to proactively take responsibility in the way you’d like them to.

These scenario questions are best taken directly from real challenges in your business but they could be in relation to colleagues not doing what they’ve asked to (perhaps repeatedly) or dealing with a sub-standard quality of work, for example.

That’s helpful for hiring, but what if you already have someone in your team who you feel isn’t being accountable? Many believe that people are simply accountable or they’re not. I must beg to differ. Yes there are nature and nurture elements at play here and some people are wired up to be more accountable than others. However I have been imparting resilience, effectiveness and accountability skills for many years now, and results tell me that accountability can also be learnt.

Many people are not aware of just how much volition they actually have and how that can be used to change their outcomes. It is commonplace for people to think certain things are outside of their control, but by teaching cognitive skills such as the ability to see the same situation from different perspectives and interpretations it’s possible to highlight the real extent of their control, which is often greater than they think. Sometimes people just need to be shown a different take on life.

To find out how to deliver Resilience, Effectiveness and Accountability skills for your people or for yourself, take a look at our R.E.A.L. Coaching Programme. 
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