Accountable Leaders and Teams: How Great CEOs Grow Them

By Cathy McCullough

Accountable Leaders & Teams

dateTue, Jan 30, 2024 @ 01:32 PM

Accountable Leaders & Teams

The question of how to grow an environment of accountability is a common one. 

Most CEOs I’ve worked with over the past 25+ years genuinely do want a healthy and viable company culture

The journey isn’t necessarily an easy one, but it is an achievable one.

Tips for growing, nurturing, and sustaining a culture built on accountability:


First, Get firmly grounded in why you even want a culture built on accountability. Is it just a ‘trend of the month’ kind of thing, or is it because you fully understand the business viability of having a culture where people are engaged enough to step up (without being told) and do the work that needs to be done while also making really good decisions along the way? As a CEO, get grounded in why you believe having accountable leaders and teams matters. Otherwise, you’ll waffle at the first push-back (and there will be push-back).

Second: Create a method to tame the madness. Have a healthy rhythm around meetings. There is a rhythm for weekly team meetings. There’s a rhythm around making them strategic vs. tactical. There’s a rhythm around the entire process, from Annual Planning to Quarterly Planning, etc., all the way down to your daily huddles. Cascade this type of methodology throughout your entire company for consistency. I believe that people want a sense of order. Healthy rhythms give them that order.

Third: Assess your company culture. Your culture is set by you and your leadership team. The only way you can know how things are working throughout your company's various nooks and crannies is to gather the data that will tell you what you need to know. For instance, if there’s no trust at various levels throughout your organization, you will have a more challenging time growing accountable leaders and teams. When working with my clients, we’ll do either a Culture Survey or a Leadership 360 Survey on core company leaders. You simply have to know where things stand now (the hard truth) before you can move toward creating higher levels of personal accountability. The assessment process isn’t about firing (or moving around) key leaders who aren’t effective. It is, however, about creating a sense of accountability (based on the assessment results) at the leadership level first. What’s the logic of holding your people accountable if you don’t first hold yourself and your core leaders accountable?

Fourth: Create transparency. Transparency creates strategic (and real) discussions. It also creates trust (and it’s virtually impossible to have a healthy environment of accountability without trust). To do this, use a dashboard for logging your Quarterly Plan (which is, of course, based on your Annual Plan). Be specific by logging your top 3-5 Key Priorities for the Quarter, with each Priority having one person who is accountable for ‘driving’ it. For each Priority, define what success looks like. The individuals accountable for watching over each initiative can engage their team members by asking them to create what they see as their own Individual Priorities (i.e., what they will be doing to support one or more of the initiatives). Each week, everyone (from the individual to the team leader) will evaluate the progress made toward success. By doing this, you’re identifying specific information about goals and results. The transparency also opens the door for more strategic discussions in weekly meetings while also allowing you to make adjustments in real-time, etc. By cascading your plan to create a rhythm of execution, you begin to form accountability in a way that people won’t fear. Instead, they become more engaged because they know what they’re doing (and how they’re doing it) matters. Your people will begin to form their own accountabilities spontaneously, they’ll suggest improvements, they’ll problem-solve together (vs. running to you with every little problem), etc. In short, your people will rise to the occasion.

Closing Thoughts and Resources

Above are just a few tips for growing accountable leaders, which is a prerequisite for growing accountable teams. A deeper dive into the specifics of creating the right kind of accountability can be found in the Rhythm Systems Five C’s of Team Accountability.

To keep growing your own leadership capabilities, here are three tips for being a transformative CEO.

Start the journey: Whatever you do, start the journey to grow accountable leaders and teams. Reach out for resources to set the stage. You can find additional information on Rhythm Systems’ Accountable Leaders and Teams Program here.


CEO Survival Guide

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Cathy McCullough


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images