Accountability is NOT a Bad Word


What comes to mind when you hear the word “accountability?”

For most people in our culture today, the word immediately brings to mind some form of punitive action. Too often, accountability shows up when something goes wrong and people are looking to lay blame. The finger pointing begins. “Sales are down this quarter. Someone is going to be held accountable!”

In the book, Winning with Accountability, Henry J. Evans says,

“Accountability should not be defined as a punitive response to something going wrong. Accountability means preventing something from going wrong.”

Achieving our organization’s mission and vision begins with accountability.

  • Mission-focused organizations front-load accountability into all of their strategies.
  • Leaders must establish a culture of accountability where it will be anticipated and expected.
  • Accountability is about achieving our goals and not fear or stress.

Hypocrisy exists in the space between language and action.

What happens when an organization or a leader says one thing, but their actions say something else? Employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, and everyone else will soon stop trusting them and assume their words are of little value. Have you heard or thought any of these types of quotes about a company?

  • “My company says they value new ideas, but we keep doing things the old way.”
  • “The sign in the window indicated the business was accredited by the Better Business Bureau, but I feel like I was ripped off.”
  • “The company leaders say they value diversity, but everyone in charge looks alike.”

In accountable cultures everyone holds each other accountable for their commitments in a positive and productive manner.

Accountability is born with two or more people know about a commitment.

The key first step for accountability is clearly communicating our expectations to those who are responsible. As leaders, this would include not just those who report directly to us, but also those who we may be influencing throughout our leadership circle. One tool which can help ensure you have clearly communicated your expectations to others is a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Specific – Have I described and provided a visual of the behaviors and deadlines required for this task? Do they know what “success” will look like? Do they understand the “why” we are doing this? ***This is by far the most important element of any S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Measurable – Can my request be measured? Does it have a clearly defined completion point? When it’s all said and done, can you actually measure if the goal was achieved?

Actionable – Will this drive people to actually “do” something or maybe change a behavior?

Results-Oriented – Will this request move us closer to our vision? We don’t need more tasks that just create work . . . we need to see tangible results.

Time-Based – Will those who are involved clearly see and hear completion dates and/or clear milestone dates? Can we write this request on a calendar and break it down into smaller steps?

While positive accountability may not be easy, it can be SIMPLE.

  • Set Expectations – never assume, be clear and focused. SMART goals are a great tool.
  • Invite Commitment – Just because someone knows what to do, doesn’t mean they will do it. Explain how the goal will benefit them and the organization. Connect what they want to what the company needs to achieve.
  • Measure Progress – Reward completion . . . but recognize steps along the way. Periodically let people know how they are doing. Ask what they need—what is getting in the way? Remove obstacles. Good goals are always measurable.
  • Provide Feedback – Honestly share how you feel. Be clear, don’t make them guess. Feedback is a gift, be sincere. Intent is more important than technique.
  • Link to Consequences – What will happen if they are successful? What will happen if they are not? Not about punishments, focus on the mission and vision.
  • Evaluate Effectiveness – Focus on the results, not the effort. What worked and what did not? What should have been done? What did they learn? Be systematic and consistent.

Take a look at your own organization and especially your personal leadership style. How would you describe the current accountability culture? Positive or punitive? No matter where you are today, it is never too late to take steps toward a more positive accountability culture. But it will not happen by accident or by wishing. Make some plans now to take one small step in the direction of positive accountability. Your team and your whole organization will be benefit from your efforts.

Here are a few suggested resources:

  • Winning with Accountability by Henry J. Evans
  • Time Management for the Christian Leader by Ken Willard
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • Leadership 101: What Every Leader Need to Know by John C. Maxwell
  • Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen R. Covey

Contact me if you are interested in hosting a Leadership seminar on accountability, setting SMART goals, or several other leadership topics.

Check out my church leadership online webinars at:



Leaders Grow Leaders

three small tree isolated on white

Organizations of all types are hungry for leaders. We are at an interesting point in time when a very large generation of leaders, Baby Boomers, are starting to retire or at least step back from leadership positions they have held for years. Another very large generation of leaders, Millennials, are just starting to move into key leadership positions. This transition of leaders can be challenging for many organizations. How about you? What is your plan to grow, develop, and prepare leaders in your organization?

Leaders tend to learn best from other leaders. This is one reason your current leaders are the best resource your organization has to identify and grow your future leaders. Are you familiar with the term, succession planning? In many cases, leaders and organizations only view succession planning as reactive. A key person has left, or is leaving soon, and the company needs a plan to replace them. Succession planning can and should be more proactive. Leaders and the company working together to grow and develop the next leaders. Effective succession planning involves four strategies of development:

  1. Identifying potential leaders. There are many great tools to help with this process. The key is to have a pool larger than your anticipated needs.
  2. Equipping them to develop their leadership skills. This involves having an intentional plan, personalized to each leader.
  3. Mentoring them to be effective. Partnering up each potential leader with a current leader who can walk with them as they grow and develop.
  4. Empowering them to use their leadership skills. Research shows that the single biggest way to grow a leader is to give them a project they can lead.

So what do you look for in potential leaders? When hiring and promoting leaders, many times we focus too much on a person’s experience, education, and technical skills. Those are important, but should only be the baseline and not the only areas we look for in our potential leaders. Here are a few other areas I would strongly suggest we look for in new leaders:

  • Character – evidence of honesty, teachability, humility, reliability, a healthy work ethic, willingness to serve others.
  • Competence – ability to do the job, experience, education, talents, and skills.
  • Chemistry – the ability to fit into the culture and work with teams of other people.
  • Conviction – passionate about the mission, vision, and values of the organization.
  • Commitment – devoted to growing as a leader. Willing to work on their own growth and development.
  • Courage – willing to take a chance, push the envelope, and challenge the status quo.

Remember, there are some things you can teach . . . and some you cannot.

We can teach someone how to use Microsoft Office products, or how to fill out an expense report, or most of the other technical aspects of a leadership job. However, teaching the six “C” areas listed above are very unlikely. We can encourage them. We can add fuel to the fire if they are already in place in a person. But teaching them to a person is a whole different story.

Let’s look now at a few ways to equip leaders once you have identified them. First, determine the key competencies leaders in your organization need in order to be successful. (e.g. decision making, interpersonal skills, time management, emotional intelligence, conflict management, communication skills, problem solving, accountability, etc.) As you work with each individual leader, identify a competency where they are strong and one they need to develop. Have them put together a plan for each.

Another way to equip leaders is to invest in them. Leaders are readers. There are many great leadership books. Buy them a new book each month and ask them to share what they are learning with others. Here are a few of my favorite books for new leaders:

  • Good to Great by James Collins;
  • Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell;
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham;
  • Leadership and the One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard;
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell; and
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

Send them to a leadership training event. Hire a leadership coach to work with them. It is less important how you are investing in each leader. What is important is for you to invest in their leadership development.

One of the wonderful aspects of today’s world is that great leadership development is available to all organizations. No matter what your size or budget. One of the greatest challenges for leadership development today is the pace of our lives at work and everywhere. We are often going so fast there is no time available to develop and grow ourselves, much less new leaders. That is the paradox of leadership development. It is not too late. Grow the leaders in your organization, including yourself, today so that you will be prepared for tomorrow.

Here are a few suggested next steps:

1) Put together a plan to grow yourself and the leaders around you.

2) Read the book Leaders Made Here by Mark Miller.

3) Work with a professional leadership coach who can provide encouragement, resources, and accountability.

  • I am an ICF certified coach, and would love to schedule a FREE first call to explore a coaching journey with you and answer any questions you might have about coaching.

4) Engage with a professional leadership trainer and facilitator to work with you and your team. [like me 🙂 ]

5) Attend a leadership event of some type.

6) Check out my church leadership online webinars at: 

Contact me if you are interested in hosting a Leadership seminar. Topics include:

  • Accountable Leadership
  • Growing New Leaders
  • Creating a Leadership Culture
  • Servant Leadership
  • Time Management for the Christian Leader
  • Setting Goals
  • Basic Coaching Skills
  • Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Strategic Ministry Planning


Leaders Step INTO the Fire


firefighter-24First responders are amazing people. These men and women run toward dangerous situations, while the rest of us run away. Yes, that is part of their training. However, I also believe that these courageous individuals are wired different from other people. Studies have found that when people are put in stressful or threatening situations, changes in the brain functioning occur. The more sophisticated frontal-lobe portion of the brain—which is responsible for planning, impulse control, problem solving, and organizing—shuts down. Most of the brain’s activity is registered in the amygdala, which is in a more primitive part of the brain. This triggers the “fight-or-flight” responses that are geared toward self-protection. The same type of changes in brain functions happen when a person gets angry, is insulted, or generally feels threatened. I’m sure we can all recall times where we were in environments that were not physically threatening, but a person or a situation was making us feel so uncomfortable we started having trouble thinking clearly or even communicating coherently.


“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Laurence J. Peter

What does all this have to do with leading in the workplace? While most leaders are not dealing with life-threatening situations each day, we are often encountering conflict which causes stress and thus lowers productivity. In the wonderful book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencioni makes the case that constructive conflict can be beneficial in any organization. He defines constructive conflict as engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate about ideas. Too often, conflict in our places of work (and other places) is anything but constructive.

Recognizing the sources of conflict is fundamental to understanding and working through conflict. Some conflict situations are easily resolved, while others seem almost impossible. Often, the source of the conflict determines how easy it is to resolve the conflict. Here are the four main sources of conflict:

  1. Facts – People can see the same facts differently, or they can disagree on what the facts are in a situation. Conflicts over the facts are often the easiest conflicts to manage because they can be resolved by sharing information or getting reliable data.
  2. Methods – People can also disagree on how to do something. Since conflict over methods assumes a common goal, it can usually be resolved by problem solving.
  3. Goals – People can disagree over goals, where the disagreement is around what should be done. Collaboration—working together to come to an agreement on goals—can help solve these conflicts.
  4. Values – People can also disagree over values, or basic principles or beliefs. This is the most difficult kind of conflict to resolve because people identify strongly with their values. Values are deeply rooted and people resist changing them.

The sources of conflict become progressively more difficult to resolve as you move down the list from facts to values. Fortunately, knowing the source of conflict and verbalizing it can go a long way toward minimizing the conflict or resolving it altogether.

When we don’t know how to handle conflict, little troubles can become lethally toxic. People tend to display three types of toxic reactions: they brood (usually demonstrated by total withdrawal from the conversation; they blow-up (usually disproportional to the issue); they triangulate (telling their side to others to gain support), we triangulate because we lack trust in others or self-confidence in ourselves. None of these will resolve the conflict. The quickest resolution between two points of contention is always 1-to-1 conversation.  Over the years, we have all acquired preferences to how we deal with conflict. Influences likely include how we have seen other leaders deal with conflict, watching and copying other role models, even our experiences with conflict at home. There are generally five recognized ways to handle conflict:

  1. Avoid (I lose, you lose) – While leaders should not make a habit of avoiding conflict, there are times where it may be appropriate. When you are unprepared and/or when passions are too high to make the conversation productive. In these cases it might be best to deal with the conflict at another time.
  2. Accommodate (I lose, you win)This style might be appropriate with you value the relationship higher than the issue causing conflict. Be careful from using this style just to avoid conflict altogether. Leaders should be seen as cooperative, not weak.
  3. Compromise (We both win, we both lose) – True compromising involves honesty and reasonableness. This style will usually resolve the conflict quickly, but may be a challenge in the long run due to neither party feeling totally positive about the outcomes.
  4. Compete (I win, you lose) – Best used when the outcome is extremely important and the relationship is of little importance. Overused this style can have a very detrimental effect.
  5. Collaborate (I win, you win) – Both parties are trying to resolve a common problem to a mutually satisfying outcome. Each party starts by sharing information instead of concessions. Using this style takes time and an investment from both parties. While there is no “right” style, collaborating is generally seen as the most appropriate style.

In most cultures a “hero” is someone who runs into a dangerous situation without thinking about themselves. Much like the first responders mentioned earlier. A true leader is someone who steps into a conflict situation to resolve it instead of turning away. No leader will ever bat 1,000 when it comes to dealing with conflict. However, all of us can get a little better over time. Set the goal to grow your leadership skills this year. One great place to start is how you deal with conflict. Be a leader, step into the fire!

Here are a few suggested next steps to grow your conflict resolution skills:

1) Visit the HRD Press website ( and order Dealing with Conflict Instrument. This is a great tool for identifying your preferred style and learning more about the appropriate uses of each style.

2) Read the book Crucial Confrontations by Petterson and Grenny.

3) Work with a professional coach who can partner with you in a confidential and results focused process.

4) Engage with a professional trainer and facilitator to work with you and your team. Contact me if you are interested in hosting a Conflict Resolution Skills seminar.

5) Check out my church leadership online webinars at: