Implementing Effective WorkplaCE Accountability

OVERVIEW – Workplace Accountability

How many times as leaders have we been here? In a crisis, yelling and dictatorship is the easy route. All of the culture, interoperability, continuous improvement, and strategic improvement gone because we failed to lead and instead turned to our basic instinct to yell and criticize in a crisis situation.

By the time the leader has reached this point, we can easily say that leadership has failed. (Of course, there is a place for this type of leadership in ‘dangerous’ or ‘potentially hazardous’ situations. ) How did we get here? Through poor accountability.

So what does an effective accountability program look like?

Starting with the basics, an accountability program should:

  • Maintain organizational culture
  • Reinforce trust and transparency in management
  • Create “measurable” goals and targets for behavioral improvement

In a typical accountability program employees are engaged in a 3 strikes and you’re out program. These programs are commonly referred to as a verbal, written, and termination review programs or point systems. In these types of accountability programs, the employee is typically told “what to change” and there are review dates with specific objective targets.

The Pitfalls of Common Accountability Programs

In the aforementioned methodology, the conversation is centered on employee performance with regard to established company objectives. In this type of environment, the employee is exposed to a manager outlining company expectations and subsequently expected to change.

The issue at hand with this type of disciplinary action or coaching is that leaders to fail to understand the root cause of the undesired behavior. Therefore, the probability of repeat behavior is high.

Modify the Script for Improved Workplace Accountability

To improve the coaching experience we recommend the following:

  • Begin the session by defining the undesirable behavior.
  • State the expected behavior and/or what needs to change with regard to the undesirable behavior.
  • Ask the employee what may have caused the undesirable behavior.
  • Ask the employee what he/or she is going to do to align with the expected behavior.
  • Document with expected milestones.
  • Followup with regular meetings on those milestones.

Why this method is better:

  • It virtually eliminates a confrontational meeting.
  • The change management piece is now owned by the employee.
  • It may well uncover opportunities for improvement in the organization.
  • Two way dialog is established.
  • Assuming the leader delivers expected objectives, a trust is formed with management.

Remember, always treat your employees as critically important assets to your business. It is far less expensive to develop than dismiss. A great leader understands that all employees are positive assets to the organization and has a bias toward resolving systemic issues before ‘simply blaming the employee’.


As a final word of warning for staff development, be aware a managers who frequently blame team members. When managers sign up for the job, it is a given that “buck stops here”. Leaders who fail to own opportunities in their charge need significant development. Left unattended, your staff could be creating cultural cancer!

Key: Workplace Accountability