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When we are talking with managers and business leaders, they regularly express their immense frustration with people not being accountable.

We operate in a highly competitive business environment where leaders are expected to achieve more, in less time, with fewer people. Managers just don’t have time to delegate tasks and then constantly chase them up, and this makes the problem of people not taking accountability even more pertinent.

It is so frustrating to believe that something will be done by a certain date only to find out, on that date, that it is only 40% complete.

We all know the problem, but what is the solution? How do you get people to be accountable?

There are three key elements for increasing accountability with your staff. Absolute clarity around all three will make it easier for you to be sure that you have been completely reasonable and clear, it will increase the chances of them actually becoming accountable in reality and it will decrease your levels of stress and frustration.


#1 – WIFT  (What’s in it for THEM!)

If you want someone to take on a task and complete it with pride and efficiency then they have to want to do it. It is about them! WIFT, what’s in it for them, as opposed to WIFY, what’s in it for you.

Of course, the reason you want the task done, the benefit to you, is important. There should be a benefit to you, it’s just that the person is not interested in hearing it! They are interested in the benefit to themselves, so they only want to hear you talk about the WIFT.

This requires you to know the person well. What makes them want to come to work? What factors impact their level of performance? Is it the appeal of interesting and challenging work or the team they are part of, is it job security or that they feel they are doing truly meaningful work?


#2 – Crystal Clear Expectations

Be crystal clear about your expectations, about both the task/project standards and about the time-frames. The set of 7 questions below can help you to be sure that you have the level of clarity in reality and not an assumed level of clarity. Too often, when we find ourselves let down, we say things like ‘well they are very experienced so they should have been fine to do this.’ An assumption rather than a fact.

  1. What, precisely, is the outcome you need in this task/project?
  2. What are the boundaries/constraints?
  3. What resources can they use (equipment and people)?
  4. What can they decide?
  5. And what must they consult with you on?
  6. What updates would you like and in what format? (1-1 meetings, Friday email etc)
  7. When, precisely, do you need this task/project completed? State or agree (whenever appropriate) a specific date and, if best practice, also a time eg. by 4 pm on Thursday 7 November.

So often we say something like ‘yes, it’s an important order so please get it to me next week’. By Thursday morning we are concerned and chasing it up, the person often responds with a tone that says ‘back off, you said next week and it’s only Thursday.’


#3 – Get Commitment

You outlining the task and the time-frame does not equate to their commitment. This is just your statement of what you want, they need to now physically say yes to the task and the timeframe before it becomes a commitment.

Often the person is very happy to commit, but sometimes they may show a reluctance to do so …… red flag: is this the same person you are struggling with because they are not accountable?!

The commitment can appear pedantic, however, it is crucial because it is them saying ‘yes I will’ rather then you saying ‘I want you to’. Experience shows that when we overtly commit we are far more likely to take the job seriously and complete it.

Without this overt commitment, it is very easy to not deliver and then make excuses. ‘Oh, I didn’t realise it had to be completed this week, I thought that was just the aim’ or ‘I know you said today but that was pretty unrealistic’.


Use these 3 steps with your staff and monitor the results. Or to get critical mass in your business, consider having your managers and leaders (probably including yourself!) complete our 2-hour Accountability in Action workshop.  To find out more, contact 1300 085 248 or email