Sunday, May 26, 2024

In an age of diminishing accountability, here are two things true leaders must do

A Harvard Business Review report found that one out of every two managers fails at accountability. In fact, accountability is one of the most universally neglected leadership behaviors today – across all functional disciplines of companies.

Why is this happening?

There is no one answer, but many leaders do not want to come off as a tough boss, an unreasonable boss or a micro-manager. They often set up goals and share the goals, let their employees run with their projects to work toward these objects and then — no follow-up or follow-through.

If the CSO did not make their numbers, there are no questions or pushback. If the CMO did not rally their team around sales enablement strategies like discussed, there are no retributions. Salespeople who lose a sale get a “this is not ideal” conversation but no valuable conversations about what happened and why — and how they should move forward.

The Risk of Little Accountability

A workplace with no accountability is akin to a child in a home with no rules. If bedtime is not dictated to nine o’clock, kids will stare at screens long into the night. They will do what they want and what they think is best for themselves.

Similarly, employees doing what they want can create disconnects and mixed messages, which work against your objectives. Without leadership checking on their progress and effectiveness, they will fall into what is easy, into a place of complacency. There will be no ingenuous solutions to obstacles. There will missed opportunities. And your company and all your employees will realize the risks of no accountability in tanking revenue performance.

Accountability mainly involves two key things:

  1. Keeping a pulse on the metrics and data in regards to goals: This means you must rally your employees around realistic goals and have a system in place for measuring these goals. You will need to decide your cadence or review and stick to it. But be sure the numbers you are looking at matter — that they ultimately are helping move your company forward and are  having a real impact. As the saying goes — “You cannot expect what you do not inspect.”
  2. Diving deeper to understand the context of the performance: Reviews usually include numbers in charts and graphs, and while they can be telling of overall performance, they often do not let on to the entire story. Maybe sales are missing their mark because the sales team is understaffed. Perhaps something personal is going on for an employee with poor performance. Your people matter, and as a leader it is vital you take the time to listen to them and respond accordingly. 

Accountability Does Not Mean Bad Leadership

Even if an employee experiences a failure, it does not mean you must emulate Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. While President Truman is correct — “If you want a friend, get a dog,” he once said — you do not have to operate out of a place of anger or mega-aggression to scare your employees into performing their best.

As a leader, it is your duty to your employees, your peers and your company to hold everyone — yourself included — accountable to performance, failures and accomplishments.


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Jay Mitchell
Jay Mitchell
Mitchell is an accomplished entrepreneur and sales and marketing thought leader, who has invested the past 20+ years investing in the revenue performance of market leaders worldwide including Ariba, Pitney Bowes, Accel-KKR, Ace Hardware, SuccessFactors, Miller Heiman, AlixPartners, SAP and many more. He has served in a variety of roles during his career including President, CEO, CMO, board member and investor to over 150 innovative champions. As Mereo’s founder and president, Jay brings a passion for helping companies align their marketing and sales infrastructure. With a heart for serving clients, Jay's others-focused values are inspiring to his clients and peers alike – as reflected in Mereo’s purpose: Seek to Serve, Not to Sell™.