Organizations are really embracing the concept of accountability these days. It seems that everyone we talk with wants us to teach participants how to be accountable. So, what exactly does that mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility: "their lack of accountability has corroded public respect." See also responsibility, liability, answerability. I like the simple definition of "being held to account for." If I have agreed to take on a certain task or responsibility, then I must account for its timely and accurate completion; I take ownership for either positive or negative results and don't blame anyone else.
How do you teach this concept to people in the workplace? It's a little tougher than one might think because it requires an element of trust between individuals and groups. If people work in a culture where taking risks is encouraged and trial and error is used as a teaching method, people will likely own up to their commitments. But, if the culture is such that mistakes are swept under the rug and people are penalized for trying new things, then it's harder to get people to claim full responsibility for their actions. Accountability is demonstrated in an organization's corporate culture or it is not.
Since we cannot control how others behave, it is imperative that we set the standard ourselves. This means demonstrating for our colleagues that we will answer for any shortcomings that occur. Being able to apologize, learn and move forward is critical. When others see that we can admit our mistakes, they are more likely to be comfortable in doing so as well. It is a cultural trait. So, when we are asked to "teach people to be accountable," our response is to share what we know with participants and ask them to serve as role models for their peers.
People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do.