Have accountability conversations with your staff?

But don?t be a hypocrite!

Having accountability conversations with your staff, about not following through on a commitment, can be quite uncomfortable, particularly if they’re not expecting it. The good news is, if you?re doing what you say you’re going to do and following through on your own commitments then the conversation is likely to go well.

In contrast, if you?re a leader who lacks integrity and doesn?t have the respect of your team then the conversation is likely to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Here are a few things I see leaders doing that compromises their integrity and makes ?accountability conversations? pointless:

  • They offer to do things for their staff that aren’t a priority and will never get done.
  • They agree to unrealistic timeframes and don’t say they?re unachievable until after the due date has passed.
  • They regularly make commitments then forget about them.
  • They say ?yes?, to doing tasks they know nothing about and set them aside hoping they?re never mentioned again.
  • They commit to connecting staff with people in their network, who can assist with their professional development, then get busy, deprioritise it and make excuses for why they haven’t followed through.

If you are guilty of doing any of these things then having ‘accountability conversations? with your staff is a waste of time. Why? Because your staff will see you as a hypocrite. They?ll assume you don?t respect them and the conversation won?t change their behaviour. You?re just likely to end up with a team who is disengaged and potentially resentful.

On the flipside, if you’re doing what you say you?re going to do, then becoming comfortable with ?accountability conversations? is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Set expectations. Make sure both you and your staff are clear on what the objectives or outcomes of the task is from the beginning.
  2. Agree on a timeframe for delivery. Once the timeframe is agreed, ask your staff if they?re sure they can meet the timeframe (with everything else they?re working on at that time).
  3. Openly discuss consequences. Ask your staff what ?might? happen if they miss this deadline. Get them to come up with their own consequence (it might just be the impact it will have on their overall performance).


  1. Have an accountability conversation. If the objective or outcome isn’t achieved or the due date is missed, an ?accountability conversation? should be held. The conversation will start with you reflecting on what was agreed in the initial discussion. Some questions you might like to ask to get the conversation going are:

How are you doing?

Is everything ok?

I?m just checking-in on the task I gave you. You agreed to finishing it by the 3rd and it?s now the 5th?so just wondering what happened?

Ok, do you remember what you agreed the consequences would be?

  1. Let them come to their own conclusion. Generally, staff will either concede their mistake and accept the consequences or they might try to give excuses (which you?ll softly challenge). It?s important to make the conversation as open and supportive as possible. This exercise is designed to get your staff to come to their own realisations about how they approached the task.
  2. Take the lessons. Ask them what they might do next time. Help them to adopt new behaviours and ways of working which might include prioritisation of work that they don?t have the capacity or skillset to complete the task.
  3. Offer support. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to support them through this change. Make sure you follow through on anything you commit to.
  4. Then, repeat! If you?re having ‘accountability conversations? regularly then your staff will learn very quickly to manage expectations better. Your conversations will become less frequent and your team will become more engaged and productive.

Remember that the behaviour you accept will continue. It is up to you to first be a role model with your own behaviour and then hold them accountable for theirs.

Shelley Flett is a passionate leader with a keen focus on creating efficient and sustainable team environments through adaptable leadership.?She is a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator, Mentor and Speaker who ignites vision and purpose in those she works with.

If you?d like to know more about her programs ?please drop her an email shelley@shelleyflett.com.?



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