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Written by Ray Moore.

Ask a hundred people if they are happy to be held accountable for achieving their goals and results and 95% will smile, nod their head, willingly accept and agree to be held accountable.

However, the reality is the total opposite with the majority doing everything they can to avoid accountability. Often this is not intentional but the outcome is doomed just the same.

Why is this the case?

Humans become programmed to avoid accountability.

All around us this belief is reinforced by society at large and evidenced in the newspapers and on television. From politicians blaming the last government to bankers denying any wrongdoing or FTSE 100 CEOs explaining the reasons for unexpected drops in profits whilst still expecting their bonus.

The list goes on and on but how can we hold accountable people in our businesses.

Well the first thing to understand is no one can hold anyone else accountable unless that person has agreed and is totally committed to make it happen. It is essential that they are prepared to be held accountable for the agreed results or outcome within the agreed timeframe and that they truly take ownership of the goal and are prepared to take responsibility of their actions.

By definition this must mean that they have the necessary skills and resources to get the result or outcome. So always carry out a reality check to make sure the resources are available and the individual or team have the right skills and desire to carry out the task. The golden rule is check, don't assume.


Avoid digging elephant traps at all costs.

This is where we know the outcome is not realistic and achievable within the time scale or with the resources available, but we still set people up to fail. And guess what, they will fall into the trap and just like elephants they won't forget and next time they wont be so willing to take on the challenge.

Agree in advance how the outcome is to be measured and set the appropriate KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Always hold people accountable on facts not opinions. Ensure all parties are using the same information and that the KPIs are timely, accurate and available to all involved.

KPIs are to Keep People Informed on their progress and to give understanding and flexibility to achieve the goal. Make KPIs a positive feedback tool not a negative stick to beat or prod.


Here are two ploys often used to avoid being held accountable.

First, watch out for smoke screens.

This is where the issue is lost in other issues. The most common is questioning of the facts – but can come in many forms. Doubt is placed on the validity of the measurement and you end up feeling confused as you never really got down to the root of the problem.

Secondly, be aware of ‘curve balls'.

These are where a totally extraneous issue is raised and before you know it the conversation has gone off in a totally different direction. It's keeping away from the question that really needs to be addressed to a safe subject that takes off the pressure and avoids the accountability.

For professional smoke screen or use of curve balls just watch any politician being interviewed on the TV or perhaps just be a fly on the wall in any of the meetings in your business!

Think about your own business and if you find smoke screens or curve balls being used on you or indeed by you then check to see whether true accountability exists in your business. Perhaps this is a symptom of a much deeper disease but that is a whole new issue.


Fluid Business Coaches, Andy Sleet and Ray Moore, are on the Fluid Business Podcast discussing accountability in more detail:

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