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Why aren’t people being held accountable?


In my job, I meet a lot of senior executives, and it surprises me that many don’t address negative issues as I would expect.

I think a large part of this is to do with accountability.

Simon Sinek summed it up for me, when he said, “would you fire one of your children if they came home from school with a C grade?!”

Well, of course, you wouldn’t. You would support them and help them to do better.

So why is it at work when one of your top performers has a bad quarter, we immediately go to performance management? When all they probably need is some reassurance and support to get back to where they should be.

Many leaders use accountability as a draconian way of managing people; it suggests that you can blame others for not doing what they should be doing. But, leaders should hold themselves accountable in the chain of events that have led to things not going as planned, because they are in charge.

I prefer the word responsibility, which comes from the heart and suggests a more shared way of thinking.

Some tips to think about:

  • Remember that leadership is about nurturing your team and can mean taking the blame for things that aren’t entirely your fault.
  • Stop making excuses, set clear expectations for your team.
  • Embrace mistakes and coach people (rather than blame them!).
  • Communicate problems when they happen, don’t wait for them to get bigger.

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

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