Team Accountability: Harsh or Helpful?

When organizations want to hold people to their words and actions, but attempts fall drastically short, how does a leader become better at holding their team members accountable?

Organizations often tell their leaders, “We need to hold our people to their words and actions.” Yet, these scenarios for accountability fall drastically short. So, how does a leader become better at holding their team members accountable?

The answer is to first understand why doing so is so important, which can help with the painstaking process of implementing an accountability practice. In business—just like in life—if a person believes in the reasons for the fight, they will fight!

Lack of accountability leads to failure

In businesses, leaders will sometimes use the excuse of wanting to maintain a cordial and non-confrontational relationship, so they may be hesitant to hold a team member accountable. However, reluctance to hold an employee accountable has a negative organizational impact.

Understand that holding an employee or team member accountable is not malicious, it is an incredibly helpful act. As a leader we must care so much that we are willing to go through the extra pain and work to hold our employees accountable. There must be a framework for accountability.

Actions to become better at holding your team accountable

The "what" is the best practice, the "why" is so we understand and believe it, and the "how" is so we know how to do it and understand that the only thing stopping us are excuses.

What: Make it public; let the team know so you as the leader are held accountable as well.

Why: When we publicly commit to something we are more likely to stick to it.  

How: Write down your expectations for the team, and write down what they can expect from you. Everybody must understand your expectations, so the team knows what is expected from them and that they are going to be held accountable. Post it somewhere where you can see it every day, make it into a poster, use post-it notes, whatever it takes. It is really easy to get busy and caught up in the daily grind of the job and slip-up or forget. It is an “Out of sight, out of mind” thing, especially when it is something as difficult as holding people accountable. 

What: Make accountability a priority as if your career depended on it (because it does)! 

Why: If we feel something is important, we will do it. The only reason we don’t do something or forget is because we don’t assign importance to it. 

How: Like most coaching activities in business, there is no immediate consequence to not holding team members accountable, but there is immediate pain or work. So it is really easy to let the “urgent” but not important things get in the way of doing what is really important. Make company-wide accountability an urgent task by understanding that without it there can be company-wide consequences—some you may not see until it’s too late.

At the end of the day, holding employees accountable is not a complicated issue or even an issue that is up for debate. When accountability becomes a core principle, it is no longer a decision, it becomes the law—and it is a law that creates successful actions.


Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group and author of the best-selling Playbook Series, is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. He has worked with thousands of leaders in creating a coaching culture. Get your copy of Nathan Jamail’s most recent book released by Penguin Publishers, “The Leadership Playbook,” at