“Holding accountable” is code for blame, the attempt to avoid or deflect consequences. Blame is a weak premise from which to work. Blame requires that you spend time and energy protecting yourself. In an environment of blame it is not safe to say what you do and don’t know. Blame leaves everyone worried about who is out to get them. All the energy they spend hiding could be spent interacting and adding value to the project. Work gets done much less efficiently.
Accountability is a powerful premise from which to work. Working well and visibly builds strong relationships. Accepting responsibility sets the stage for satisfaction in a job well done. It’s a pity that the word “accountability” is misused, because the misuse obscures a useful concept.
Accountability can be offered, asked, even demanded, but it cannot be forced. “I hold you accountable,” doesn’t make sense. “I blame you,” or, “I hope you will accept the consequences,” are at least honest, even if they are a toxic basis for a working relationship. Managers can request or demand accountability. For example, a manager could ask that the software be ready to deploy at the end of every week so that the team’s progress is visible. From the other side, accountability can be offered even if it isn’t requested. “I can show you a log of how I spent my time last week,” is an offer of accountability.