This is the last of our 7-part series on the topic of accountability, based on book “Crucial Accountability”, 2013 (authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler)

When accountability conversations don’t work

If accountability efforts continue to fail despite best efforts, let the recipient know that the cost of inaction could be disciplinary or if you they don’t report to you, that you will escalate the issue. In approaching the recipient use a gentle tone and:

– Explain the next step and when it will happen

– Follow the entire process through

– Agree who will be doing what and do it

If you both agree to just cope with the challenge, ensure workarounds are mutually established and agreed to.

What about holding your boss accountable

– Holding your boss accountable is not easy as they employ you so fear is legitimate. It takes courage and integrity – values that are important in any organization. When holding your boss accountable, one can reduce the risk by and optimize success by:

– Asking permission to have an accountability-based conversation

– Solicit feedback on whether you might be the problem. “Is there anything I could do differently?”

– Focus on fixing the problem. Managers are accountable to make sure employees are successful. The problem you are bringing up could be impacting their success.

If your organization is one that promotes accountability, conversations like these should be much easier.

Dealing with difficult situations

– All the planning in the world and best intentions do not always lead to success. There are times when you may encounter situations that are more difficult to address. A number are explained below with suggested ways to deal with them:

– Confronting authority: Evaluate the situation based on wearing the boss’ shoes and how the behaviour could be impacting them as well as consequences to others.

– You are the minority: If others are not following standards or procedures and you are, prior to holding others accountable, investigate the reason why.  People are generally rational so there could be a valid reason. Take the time to understand reasoning and circumstances.

– Silence: When the other party is using silence as their answer, make it clear with them you are trying to improve things. To inspire dialogue, begin with something that you could be doing that is impacting the situation.  Set an appropriate time to discuss and be sure you don’t take an “I will fix you” approach.

– Devastating personal implications: If the magnitude of behaviours that led to the lack of accountability is enormous, discuss smaller chunks of behaviours that could change – not the full scope. Provide facts and clear feedback on behaviours, set standards, and when improvement occurs, work on other areas.

What not to do

When holding others accountable, be as direct and forthcoming as possible. Things not to do are:

– Play games. Be direct and don’t beat around the bush.

– Misalign verbal and non-verbal cues.

– Pass on the accountability task on to someone else.

– Believe that people can read your mind.


– Accountability is shift in mind-set and when walking the talk, be understanding that the journey may be a long one. Help others understand the reasons and the approach, and build a team that can trust the process and not be fearful of it. Is there really another option?

Kwela’s Coaching for Performance program also offers a lot of great, hands-on tools for Managers.

Glen Sollors, Senior Consultant