a group of people in a meeting

Holding Your Team Accountable

Leaders often struggle with holding their team accountable. During our research for the book "Powerscore," we discovered that only 8% of leaders excel at accountability. A significant reason for this shortfall is that incorrect accountability practices complicate matters for everyone involved.

Consider this example from a keynote I delivered at a Fortune conference: I asked the audience, "How many of you have goals for your teams that are written down?" Surprisingly, only 10% had documented their goals. This lack of clarity leads to confusion, making it nearly impossible to hold someone accountable for results when the expectations have not been clearly set.

Effective accountability requires clearly defined goals and the use of measurable metrics provided by others. Reflecting on my early days as CEO at ghSMART, I recall struggling to hold a consultant accountable. She was exceptionally skilled technically but lacked initiative in client communications and follow-ups, resulting in clients not retaining her services.

I invited her to my office to discuss improving her client relationships. She disagreed with my assessment, claiming her clients were satisfied with her work. I countered, "Well, one client told me that although he values your work, he feels you treat him like 'processed cheese' and that you rush to finish projects with him, then move on to the next client." She insisted her work should speak for itself, and our meeting ended abruptly.

Looking to Schedule a Consultation? Fill Out the Form Below to Schedule a Time That's Right For You:


This situation was a significant oversight on my part because I failed to establish specific, mutually agreed-upon goals and relied on vague descriptions. I discussed this issue with a mentor who advised, "Make sure you have clear goals, in writing, so your consultants know what 'great' looks like. Then, have somebody other than you collect data on their performance. Then, you can sit down as a coach to review their results versus their goals."

I immediately implemented this excellent advice. Effective accountability allows high performers to recognize their success and continue their commendable efforts, while low performers realize their shortcomings well before any formal discussions need to occur.

Dr. Geoff Smart is the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm dedicated to enhancing leaders' positive impact on the world. Dr. Smart and his team have authored several New York Times bestsellers, actively contribute to their community, and provide counsel to various government officials.

Click here to schedule a 10-minute Discovery Call to get started with Orbis.