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Four ways to fix what's wrong with accountability

Generally speaking, micromanaging is a bad thing and accountability is a good thing. Some people push back on accountability for a variety of reasons. Dan Rockwell shares four ways to fix what’s wrong with accountability.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell


The chief end of accountability is nudging people toward their potential by leveraging untapped talent. The secondary end of accountability is getting things done.

Who you are comes before what you do.

1.  Choose internal before external:

Accountability that energizes people is helping them live up to their talent, values, and aspirations. Help people see who they might become. De-energizing accountability is imposed from the outside by people in power. 

Hold people accountable to their highest aspiration and greatest contribution.

2.  Begin in the right place:

Accountability goes sideways when leaders impose expectations on reluctant followers. The starting point of accountability is where people want to go, not what you pressure them to do.

The ultimate starting point of accountability is what kind of horses are in the barn and where can they go.

The process of accountability begins by accepting people for who they are.

3.  Understand the power of commitment:

Commitment precedes accountability. Commitments are given, not forced. 

Accountability is resisted until commitments are given. 

Accountability without commitment is futile. People who aren’t committed find fault. People who are committed find a way.

Commitments require:

1.  Shared purpose. Why are we doing this in the first place?

2.  Shared beliefs and values. They must believe in the goal before committing to work toward it. Energizing accountability begins with belief; de-energizing begins with results.

3.  Actionable behaviors that align with talent and strengths. Exactly what are they committing to do?

Observable progress.


  • Motivation.
  • How are people developing and advancing themselves?
  • What’s within their control?
  • How are they bringing value to colleagues and customers?


4.  Deal with the roadblock:

Talent wants – needs – to succeed. The obstacle of accountability is fear of failure. They won’t commit until there’s reasonable certainty that progress is possible.

Show people how they will succeed before expecting accountability.

How might leaders establish accountability that creates energy?




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