The Hidden Key to Creating True Accountability


As I’m sitting at my hotel after a training, I’m motivated to write a post based on recent coaching conversations. This time, the topic is holding people accountable as a leader. It’s truly remarkable how bad this is done in organizations and how high the costs are of not doing there correctly. Here are 2 simple ways that describe all you need to know on how to create accountability as a leader.


1. Kill all Expectations and Upgrade them to Agreements.


How can a leader hold anyone accountable if there isn’t alignment and understanding as to what success looks like? A leader who sends confused or mixed messages about performance will be contributing to a culture of mistrust, uncertainty, doubt, and fear. So why is getting clarity and alignment about roles and goals so difficult to get right?
Here’s what I hear when I ask this question to clients :
  • I thought they understood ….
  • We discussed expectations in performance reviews
  • We reviewed team goals at the staff meeting
  • I sent out an e-mail to the team
  • It’s obvious what we need to do to succeed – meet our numbers!
  • We don’t have time to _____________________.
The heart of the problem here is the false belief that people hear and perceive messages the same way.


It’s a common misperception that because we’re in the same situational experience, we all must be experiencing it the same way. In actual fact, we are never having a common situational experience. Ten leaders sitting around the same board room table are having 10 different, thought-generated experiences ranging from clarity and presence to disengaged and checked out.


A leader who understands the inside-out nature of reality in the moment will naturally want to verify and validate what his/her team members are hearing.


It won’t make sense to broadcast a one-way message to a distracted team, to assume silence equals agreement, or to believe that sending an e-mail will “make it so.”
It simply won’t. Or haven’t you noticed?
A leader who realizes that the frustration he or she feels when communicating challenges is always coming from their thinking in the moment and not the situation or the team’s reactions, will be better able to maintain the presence and connection required for getting alignment and commitment.
Seeing this represents an enormous increase in productivity and efficiency!


2. Speaking Straight instead of Speaking to be Nice.


The current over-emphasis on being politically correct is contributing to a lack of honest conversations about progress on goals and objectives. Some corporate cultures seem to reinforce the old adage “if you can’t say something nice…” sending an implied message that negative/constructive feedback is somehow disrespectful.
But here’s my question: Isn’t it disrespectful not to be honest with people? How are people supposed to know what you mean when you don’t say what you mean?
Again, the faulty reasoning that our feelings come from anything other than thought in the moment is at play.


Some leaders worry about how critical feedback will be received and from that place of worry and discomfort, they deliver vague, confusing messages about performance – or avoid having the discussion altogether.


There are many reasons for lack of progress or poor performance, but there’s only one way to really understand what’s going on: we need to have a connected conversation from a space of mental clarity.
And finding this space of mental clarity is not about the tips or techniques that teach you at every leadership on performance feedback. There’s no formula for interpersonal effectiveness – it’s about understanding how human beings operate.


The Key to Holding People Accountable as a Leader
The key to more effective conversations about performance is realizing two facts:
  1. We are all living in separate personal realities created by thought taking form uniquely in each person, in every moment.
  2. Our feelings are always and only coming from our own personal thinking in the moment and not the circumstances.
Each of us is living in an ever-changing world of thought in the moment – from inside of us, not from circumstances or other people.


When we realize how the mind works, we don’t waste energy and create noise in the system looking outside of ourselves for the cause of our emotions in the moment.
Without all that mental clutter, mental clarity is our natural state of mind. From that space, wisdom, common sense, and connection emerge and honest, effective conversations are possible, regardless of the situation.
Try it out!