Accountability Examples: How to Use the 5 Cs of Team Accountability in 2023

By Jessica Wishart

Accountability Examples: How to Use the 5 Cs of Team Accountability in 2023

Team Accountability

At Rhythm Systems, we are all about helping companies and teams achieve their dreams and goals. 

We have the right systems and skills to help them remain focused, aligned and accountable to getting things done. Developing accountable leaders and teams is a big piece of the puzzle for companies that want to consistently achieve their growth goals. You can be lucky for a while, but for sustained, predictable success, you need the right people operating off the right playbook.

That’s why we’ve built out a framework for Team Accountability. We call it the 5 Cs: Common Purpose, Clear Expectations, Communication and Alignment, Coaching and Collaboration, and Consequences and Results. On the surface, it’s a simple framework but in practical application, it can really change the game for teams and leaders. I love this model, because you can apply it universally and gain value from looking at just about any situation or project through this lens.

Download Team Accountability Assessment

5cs of Accountability Examples and Framework

Let me give you an example of applying this accountability model when launching a new project.

The best real-life examples of accountability are from our lived experience, so in the spirit of transparency, I’ll share a story of my own. Last year, my team took on a project to audit and simplify our internal systems. We reached a point where we kept adding on systems, and it was too much. We could better scale our operations, be more productive, and save money by making some changes—but change is hard, and our team is very busy. So in order to set the project up for success, I launched the new initiative using the framework of the 5 Cs:

  1. Common Purpose: Before we announced any changes, I was careful to involve all the key stakeholders. I asked them what their current process was like in our systems, and I learned what they liked and didn’t like. I began with an objective statement to clarify why we were working on this project to begin with—being sure to outline why this initiative was important for the longer term goals in our company, for our team, and for each person individually.
  2. Clear Expectations: Once we had defined why, we clarified the project's scope. Our cross-functional team created priorities in Rhythm with Red-Yellow-Green success criteria that clearly outlined our goals, deadlines, and dependencies. We carefully considered the best timing for making changes based on when the team was available.
  3. Communication and Alignment: We worked hard to ensure the key stakeholders were informed about critical information and shared information weekly with the wider team in our Weekly Meeting. Since we included quarterly priorities around researching, testing, and rolling out new systems, anyone in our company could review the weekly progress in our Rhythm dashboard. A project like this one impacts all areas of the company; we were changing systems that would impact Sales and Service, and that needed the help of our Finance team. When it came time to roll out the new systems, we did training in a group setting with one-on-one follow up, and we created written documentation of the steps involved in using the new systems. We tried to address the different communication styles and preferences by delivering our message in different ways, and we closed the loop by inspecting whether the team members were adopting the new systems the way we had planned.
  4. Coaching and Collaboration: When we found that a few team members weren't using the new tools upon inspection, we reached out to coach them. We asked questions to determine if they were not complying with the new systems because of a lack of skill or understanding. Once we understood the problem, we worked with the person to figure out what else we could do to help them be successful in the new systems. We also had opportunities for the larger team to share feedback and collaborate on best practices in the new tools.
  5. Consequences and Results: At the end of the nearly year-long effort to streamline our internal systems, we celebrated the success! Not only did we find ways to save thousands of dollars for the company, but we were also able to point to concrete time-savers and more seamless internal communication that resulted in a better experience for our clients. We celebrated our success in one of our monthly company meetings.  All members of the team must be held accountable in order to drive performance.

Download Team Accountability Assessment

If you are intentional at the outset of a new project and use the 5 Cs of Team Accountability as your framework, you can save a lot of headaches along the way. Alternatively, the 5 Cs are also a great coaching tool to apply when things aren’t going according to plan.

Team accountability


Here’s an example of how to apply the 5 Cs to coach yourself or your team through a challenge.

Again, I’m going to use an example I know well, but I’ll change the names to protect the innocent. :) A new hire on a sales team - we’ll call him Alex - was given a project to make some phone calls to hot prospects on a Friday morning. The following week, the sales person’s manager - we’ll call her Susan - followed up to see how the calls went only to find out that the person hadn’t done it yet. The manager was frustrated and unsure of what to do with this person. Thankfully, Susan had a coach who helped her apply the 5 Cs.

They walked through the model together to find where there was a breakdown.

  1. Common Purpose: Susan thought it would be obvious that it was important to make the calls so that Alex could close deals, hit his quota, get his commission, and help the company’s bottom line. However, she didn’t share why it was important to call these people right away - they were hot leads from an event that took place the day before, and if they weren’t contacted soon, they might lose interest.
  2. Clear Expectations: Susan felt she was clear that the calls needed to be made, but she realized that she didn’t provide a timeframe for getting it done. She didn’t clearly outline what success looked like on this project.
  3. Communication and Alignment: While Susan thought she was communicating clearly by providing a list of names and numbers and asking Alex to make follow-up calls, she realized that she could have slowed down, shared the expectations around getting it done on the same day, and explained why this was important to do now. She also didn’t verify that Alex understood the assignment.
  4. Coaching and Collaboration: Upon reflection, it became clear to Susan that Alex wasn't ignoring her or intentionally letting her down. Susan needed to coach Alex and share responsibility for Alex's poor performance in this case. Rather than punishing Alex for not getting it done, Susan could share that she had failed to communicate well and work with Alex on a plan to ensure they were more closely aligned in the future. She committed to slowing down, and he committed to asking clarifying questions and responding to her requests more quickly when needed.  Many teams benefit from skip level meetings, check out our great skip level meeting questions.
  5. Consequences and Results: Alex failed to follow through so the company missed out on opportunities, but Susan had a breakthrough in her management style and learned a valuable framework to help prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.

Thinking through this framework can help you as a leader understand where you may play a role in contributing to the problem or where you can better support your team. By using the framework, you can be sure you’ve done everything in your power to set your team up for success. If you continue to have the same problem over and over with the same person, even after running the issue through the 5 Cs, then you can apply consequences - like letting the person go - with confidence that you did all you could to set them up for success. Looking for other solutions? We have a leaders and teams accountability workshop that can help!

Download How to Engage Remote Workers Guide

Want more information on Team Accountability? Check out these additional resources:

Accountable Leaders and Teams Leadership Development Program

Zoom Icebreakers: Energize your Remote Meetings

Accountability Definition in Management

Team Accountability Begins with Personal Accountability

Building Team Accountability: Job Scorecards

10 Signs of an Accountable Culture [Infographic]

Growing Team Accountability in Your Organization

5 Steps to Having an Accountability Discussion [Video]

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images


Book your personalized demo

Or Pick a Date Now