Actionable Accountability

There’s no “foolproof” way to achieving accountability—we’re all human! There are, however, simple and effective methods for holding yourself and others accountable. Let’s break them down:

Hold yourself accountable: 

Step 1: Get clear on the required task

Step 2: Understand what a “good job” looks like

Step 3: Just do it!

Click to download PDF of the Video TestHold others accountable: 

Step 1:
Use “I notice…” statements to describe what you observe. E.g. “I notice that your progress report is three days late.”

Step 2:
Outline the goal
. E.g. “The goal is to have your progress report submitted by noon every Thursday.”

Step 3:
Request a solution. E.g. “How will you make this happen? If you need help, let me know.”

“I’ve already used the “I noticed” line with one of my managers in a coaching conversation, and it is very powerful.” – Vivo Team Learner

The Video Test is a great place to start—actively observing a person’s behaviors so you can accurately describe those behaviors.

Make a commitment to be accountable (to yourself and others) in order to achieve collective goals—ultimately creating a sustainable system.

Accountable Hypocrites

Dear Dr. Jim,

My manager can be hypocritical. What can I do to hold them accountable?

– Gurjot*


Hi Gurjot*,

This is a difficult issue. There are a couple of things going on.

I’m going to assume that what you mean is that your manager doesn’t follow through and do what they say they’re going to do, or they ask you to do things and they don’t model it. This could be a big issue because a lot of managers are very busy—they get overloaded and then they just don’t follow through on things.

Another reason may be that this manager is not very competent in what they do. But the question that you have that is most poignant is: how do I hold them accountable?

Simply, you can’t! What you want to do is engage with them in a way that they can help you get what you need.

So one of the things I recommend is that you put it in the form of: “I need some help…” You may be very clear about what you need to do, but you’re asking for help and opening up the possibility that your manager is going to respond in a helpful way.

Another way of opening up is to say: “I’m really stuck and I’m not sure what to do based on what I heard your instructions for this to be”. It’s your responsibility, and I know this is very hard, but it’s your responsibility to stay as focused as you can, to stay specific about what you need, and what you want.

This is a very difficult situation. Keep at it. And, if it’s not working, then you might want to talk to a colleague or another manager. Be proactive.

In emotional intelligence, it’s called leader assertiveness and it’s really important for us to be assertive (not aggressive) in terms of getting what we want.

I hope that’s helpful.

Thank you for the question—that’s a great one!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Team Goal Setting

Dear Dr. Jim,
Do you have any tips for team goal setting for the New Year?
– Chris*

Hi Chris,
If I was in your shoes, and I am, the number one thing that I would make clear with my team members is: what are our norms and our rules of engagement? How are we going to conduct ourselves? The things we agree on need to be unanimous because they are the rules that we’re all going to play by. Any kind of game that we play, the game of life, football, chess, whatever it is, there are rules. If you don’t follow the rules, things are going to go awry.

The second thing, I tend to like to set 90-day goals around the overarching expectations, big goals, or purpose for the team as a whole. By setting 90-day goals you can review them on an ongoing basis. If you set a goal for a whole year, it’s a really difficult thing to try to do, it’s too long a time.

So go for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, review the following: What went well? What do we need to improve on? What might we be missing? What is it that I need to do more of to help my team fulfill the goals? What would I like more of from the team? You can do this through each month up to the 90 days. Take a look at it, re-jig it depending on what’s going on, things that are happening, etc.

One of the other things to do is as a team—and this is really on the leader—if you’ve got high priority things that you need to do over the next let’s say 90 days, 120 days, 180 days, it is your responsibility to help your team stay focused on those goals and protect them from incursions from outside that may get them off track. Make sure everybody is sticking to goals. Check-in once a month, hang in there, and stay focussed.

Really important: norms and rules of engagement. Discipline. Discipline gives you freedom. That’s one of the absolute aspects of life. The more disciplined one is, the more freedom you’re going to experience. Tough to do. Hang in there, take care.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Stand Up!

Hi Dr. Jim,
I hadn’t anticipated how totally stationary I would be while working from home. My back hurts and I gained weight. It’s taking a toll on my motivation. Help!


Jean-Claude, I’m with ya!
When I start working on the computer I can just slump into working and blinking and not get up. Here’s what I try to do. I set a goal of what I want to accomplish month-to-month, in terms of some kind of exercise, and try to reach 80-90% of that.

The next thing I do is every 35 minutes I stand up and get away from the computer for a short time. Also, when I get to the point where I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I’m wasting my time, I just get up and go for a little trip around the house to snap out of it.

When we are working remotely we also start snacking on stuff. I have a chocolate bar in the fridge right now, I haven’t been eating it for the last two days because I gotta discipline myself. Discipline equals freedom equals health! Hang in there, get disciplined, have a good time.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

What About Work?

Dear Dr. Jim,
What’s happening? My work from home employees are posting on Facebook all day about cleaning their closets out, baking bread, and even grouting the bathroom.
– Lisa*

Hey Lisa,
Our job as leaders and managers is to stay checked in and connected with our teams and the bigger picture. I would plan a virtual team meeting and say: I notice a lot of you are cleaning out your closets and baking bread. I’m a bit concerned about how that’s affecting your work. Do you have what you need? Help me out!

You’ll probably find that people are organizing their days differently. I’ve been working remotely for 15 years and I will work a couple hours here, go for a run, work again, do an errand, work a bit in the evening, etc. That’s what works for me and my productivity. Always be aware of what’s going on by checking in with your team often instead of making assumptions.
– Dr. Jim