100% Jodi: How to Hold Others Accountable to Lead Effectively

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Do you dread one-to-one meetings because you’ll be asking the other person to account for an outcome or their performance?

Many leaders want to have high performing teams but overlook the fact that accountability is at the heart these teams. If you want your team to deliver on expectations or communicate when they can’t, you have to be able to hold others accountable.

Additionally, you need to look at yourself and ask what kind of role model you are to your team?

In this episode, we cover how your ability to hold others accountable impacts your team’s performance and how to get best out of your team.

Why it’s Important to Hold Others Accountable

You can’t do it all.

We all know this, but often we struggle internally with this fact. There’s so much we want done. And we know we can do it right.

This would be true if you had endless amounts of time. But you don’t. And if try to hold on to too many things, especially after your promotion or role change, the quality of the work you do or your wellness, or both, will start to suffer.

If you are struggling with letting things go, I’m going to refer you back to two episodes I did last year. One was titled What Responsibilities Should You Keep. This episode helps you consider what tasks only you can do and what you can give away.

The other episode it titled Delegating as an Opportunity. This episode challenges the negative mindsets that make it difficult for you to delegate. After listening to that episode, you’ll see delegating as a win-win for everyone involved.

When you are delegating you are not abdicating responsibility. Whatever it was that you delegated, you still need to make sure it’s on track and getting done properly. Because of this, the ability to hold others accountable now comes into play.

What it Means to Hold Others Accountable

A lot of leaders overcomplicate accountability and make it into something it is not. Accountability is mere the ability to give an accounting of an outcome including actions taken and decisions made along the way.

If you’ve ever asked, “what happened?”, you have asked someone to give an accounting of an incident.

And, you’re don’t just hold others accountable when something goes wrong. You hold others accountable when you want them to share about good or neutral outcomes too.

There are several variations to asking what happened, and it’s important to ask the question appropriately. However, being skilled in holding others accountable goes way beyond asking what happened.

If done properly, your ability to hold others accountable will increase everyone’s chances of success and identify opportunities for growth.

When not done properly it may have catastrophic consequences to your team and your own performance. If you are not able to hold others accountable it could mean having to do the work over again. There could be deadline delays. This will lead to diminished team morale which will impact motivation and performance.

Accountability versus Responsibility

Before we go on, I want to distinguish between responsibility and accountability. While everyone involved may be in some ways responsible for an outcome not everyone will be asked to account for the outcome.

However, each individual who reports into you will be accountable to their own overall performance.

A better way to put it is, if you are able to hold others accountable your people will give an accounting of their performance to you. However, they will not need to account for company performance to the corporate board. On the board level, they have personal responsibility but no board-level accountability.

Here’s a way to hold others accountable in a way that set them – and you – up for success.

First, be clear on what the expectations are. What is the exact outcome you are looking for? What will you want to be reported on along the way? And how do you want others to communicate with you? At what point do you want to know if the task or project is at risk?

Schedule weekly drumbeat check ins so you are aware of the progress being made.

If it’s a project of considerable size, break the goal down to specific milestones that will be met along the way. Use the drumbeat meetings as an accountability check in.

Another benefit of these meetings is they hold the space for communication.  

Sometimes team members want to avoid giving you bad news. If there’s wiggle room, they may continue down a risky path hoping something changes. The drumbeat meeting provides a designated space for reporting progress, or unexpected obstacles.

This meeting goes both ways. This is also an opportunity for your team member to ask you for feedback, support and additional resources.

These drumbeat meetings also give your team members smaller doses of being held accountable. If you wait for the end of big project to get an accounting of what happened, it could be overwhelming – for them and for you.

Does Your Team Have Everything They Need?

Dialogue with your team members about their ability to meet the outcome based on their competencies and resources. Identify any gaps that would prevent them from being successful.

Once the gaps are named, identify ways to close those gaps such as additional training or reallocating resources.

Explain Why!

Last but absolutely not least, make sure your team member is clear on why hitting the outcome is important. They should be aware, at both the individual level, team level and organizational level what the benefits are of succeeding and the consequences of failure.

The episode coming out next week is an on-air coaching call in which we discuss how team members, more than ever, need to know why they are doing what they are doing.

They need to know how what they are doing ties to the company mission. They need to be clear on what happens if they are not doing their job properly.

In some industries, failing to do a task properly or within appropriate timeframes can be devastating. It can put others in physical danger or cost the company serious amounts of money. It can also damage a team members reputation or career opportunities.

No matter what the risk or reward, make sure everyone involved knows what’s at stake.

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Guidelines for Accountability

As a leader, it’s vitally important to think about your own accountability as well. Whenever you hold others accountable, it’s important to demonstrate that you hold yourself accountable as well. Always walk your talk.

You are in fact accountable to everyone around you as your performance impacts each of them.

Think Through Your Decisions

When making decisions think about the impact of those decisions. Who will be responsible to carry it out? What is the deadline? Who else is impacted by the decision and who needs to be informed of the decision?

Look at Yourself First

When things go awry, look first to how you, as a leader, contributed to the outcome.

According to Courtney Lynch, former Marine Corps officer and co-founder of Lead Star, “leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”

I’m not saying you take blame and beat yourself up. Rather, do a post mortem to determine where and when things went off track. Consider if you could have done anything differently to prevent the outcome.

Talk About Yourself as a Part of the Team

Accountable leaders see themselves as a part of the team and not the overseer of the team. Creating a “we” mentality on the team shows you are in it with them and accountable to the outcomes as well.

Consider Your Team’s Time and Energy Resources

Accountable leaders are also sensitive to the time and energy resources of their team. To this end, they make sure they are facilitating effective team meetings.

This means communicating the purpose of the meeting and agenda ahead of time. Allowing for honest communication and team building opportunities. And following up after the meeting with a summary, assignments and deadlines.

It also means you are making sure there are no needless redundant or outdated tasks that are being performed. These time wasters are often the reason team members will balk at trying something new.

Culling what’s not moving us toward our goals is an important step in creating new solutions and opportunities.

Address What’s Not Working Right Away

Accountable leaders are actively working with team members who are underperforming. As an accountable leader, you do not bury your head in the sand with there are performance issues or conflict on the team.

If you have people pleasing tendencies this will be a challenge for you. You may not want to call someone out for underperforming so you may be tempted to wait it out hoping whatever is causing the problem sorts itself out.

This is a mistake. Your lack of action will be noted and will not be interpreted in a forgiving light. The team members who are impacted by an underperformer or conflict within the team are looking to you as their leader to address it.

While it’s true, strong team members and leaders within you team will seek to resolve these issues. However, this is not always the case. As the leader it’s important that your team know you care for their wellbeing and will act in accordance with that.  

Always look for opportunities to provide positive and constructive feedback to your team.

Hold Others Accountable as a Culture Initiative

Accountability is important because it builds trust, support, and strong teams. A team can’t thrive without a culture of accountability. Holding other accountable helps your team work collaboratively toward the same goals.

When you foster a culture of accountability everyone in the organization knows they are being held to a higher standard and will be given the support they need to hit those standards.

At the center of the culture is you, and your ability to hold others accountable.

Are You Done with the Struggle? Let’s Chat!

If your last promotion left you feeling unstable in your leadership role, I invite you to consider working with me. I would love to support you through this transition, help you get your bearings and feeling confident in your leadership once again. Schedule a time to chat with me.

This checklist will help you prepare to ask your company to sponsor you to work with a coach. https://womentakingthelead.com/checklist

As always, I hope this was of value to you, and here’s to your success!


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