The Dreaded “A-Word”

It had been an awesome meeting. The four days have been filled with celebration, strong strategic plans, and new resources that were sure to impact customers demand for the company’s products.

And now it was time to close.

There would be two speakers that day. The first was simply excellent. He spoke about the incredible experience of the people in the room and how their efforts had brought them so far. He reviewed the week, the strategic discussions held, and the new resources that were available to the team to drive customer use and satisfaction.

The team was pumped. They were jacked up to go out and bring all of the plans and resources to life!

And then came the second speaker and the dreaded “A-Word”.

Her motivational talk – “James pretty much said it all. Just keep in mind, we will be watching, and we will hold you accountable.”


You could hear the air being sucked out of the room. And the entire mood of the room changed with that one statement and the use of the “A-Word” – accountability.

As I sat there taking it all in, I realize that this group of experienced professionals who had posted some of the greatest results the company had enjoyed in years was just told by a key executive that if they didn’t execute appropriately, they would in essence be put into adult timeout.

It wasn’t needed and it certainly wasn’t motivational.

What this executive didn’t seem to understand, and unfortunately many don’t, is that the vast majority of the people in this world hold themselves accountable. They want to do a good job and are going to strive to do just that.

No one needs to tell them to get out of bed every day, go to work, and execute the plans of the company because that’s just what they do. And it’s not because they get a paycheck either. It’s because they are professionals and adults.

Yet here they were being treated like the schoolchildren in Pink Floyd’s song, ‘Another Brick in the Wall’,

“If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding, if you don’t eat your meat?”

And the fact of the matter is, this executive’s statement will have little bearing on those in the room, if there were some, who were already deciding to give less than the required effort. You see, they had already made the decision to not give it their all and no matter what words came down from the podium, that’s not going to change.

But what about the term, “hold you accountable”?

Her statement squarely put the responsibility for the success of the strategies and tactics presented that week squarely on the shoulders of the people in the room.

Many will argue that is the correct path for a leader to take.

I tend to disagree. You see, I believe that ultimately the success or failure of an initiative is more often than not a “we” thing, than a “you” thing. It’s why “Shared Accountability” is one of the five principles of my leadership philosophy, “The Leadership Boomerang”.

Shared Accountability follows the guidance of Roger Connors best-selling and highly recommended book, The Oz Principle. Whereby below-the-line behavior is more “you-focused” and includes finger-pointing, above-the-line behavior and leadership is more “we-focused” and requires a sense of ownership as in, “We are in this together.”

I wonder what the energy in the room would have been like if she said something like,

“James nailed it. We have a great game plan and the tools to achieve it. Now, we just have to do it. All of us… together. I am looking forward to working with you, James and the rest of the team to ensure we capitalize on the incredible opportunities before us. And I am looking even more forward to the next time we are together, So that we can celebrate our successes and determine how together, we overcome our challenges. Let’s do this.”

But she didn’t.

But you just might.

And that’s the point of this blog.

Stay safe, well, and enjoy your pudding!

2 thoughts to “The Dreaded “A-Word”

  • Avatar
    Jennifer Bromiley


    • Avatar
      Dean Hart

      Thanks for the comment Jennifer! I am glad you liked the post!


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