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The Business Forum Journal


Accountability for Results
An Executive's Ultimate Challenge


By Thomas R. Northup


Have you participated in a business initiative that your company never completed?  Did you watch key business goals suffer as teams missed deadline after deadline?

Often such problems arise because neither the employees nor the management team hold themselves truly accountable.  When teams don�t execute effectively because of lack of accountability, the company fails to generate results.

Accountability for results is the crucial step in producing outstanding performance.  Many executives have trouble providing this accountability.

Establishing Accountability

Executives are responsible for creating accountability in his organization.

First, the executive and his management team must develop and commit to a clear vision and translate that vision into a coordinated strategic plan. Without this foundation everyday pressures will overwhelm the process, producing an ever-changing environment that causes indecision and delays.   

Second, the management team must make certain that everyone within the company knows that it is committed to the initiative. When teams work under public scrutiny, they develop a strong desire to succeed and to share the achievement. Teams that only commit to doing well are subtly preparing for eventual failure.

Third, the team must place the organization over individual interests.  When individuals channel their efforts into making the team work better, positive results occur. Conversely, when individuals protect their turf and work at cross purposes, they doom the initiative.

Fourth, team members must coordinate their high payoff activities so that they work with the same result in mind. The team must focus both individually and collectively on objectives and outcomes to generate positive performance.

Using Accountability to Generate Results

It is not enough to establish accountability in a company. To create results, management must create sound tactics to measure performance. Revenue and profit goals are important but beyond that management must clearly identify relevant metrics, ensure that those metrics are realistic, and specify expected completion dates.

Effective executives understand that projects never go as intended. Therefore they hold regular progress review meetings to build accountability into their management routine. These reviews develop focus within the teams and keep the pressures of everyday work life from causing slippage.  

These focused review meetings take place outside of regular staff meetings. Their frequency depends on the complexity of the initiative and its progress. With regular reviews, management can make simple corrections while maintaining the original schedule.

Regular review meetings allow management to keep teams accountable and to measure progress towards the desired results.

Accountability and the Leader

An executive who exhibits strong leadership is best positioned to create accountability for results and outstanding performance. He plays four key leadership roles:

  1. Building a culture that values company objectives above individual ambition in which everyone works toward the same objective.

  1. Building a culture of trust. In this environment, team members understand they can be vulnerable with each other without fear of personal attack and political retribution. They solve problems more quickly because they make decisions based on objective input from the outset. Management teams with a high degree of trust are cohesive and function at a high level.

  1. Avoiding personally becoming the task master of accountability.  Effective executives trust the team to do the work and hold each other accountable.  Without trust team members will hesitate to accept this role.    

  1. Personally setting the tone for absolute focus on results.  When team members sense that the leader lacks focus, they too will lack focus.   


The success with which management holds itself and its teams accountable is the key to a company�s future. Lack of accountability produces extreme frustration when it leads to lack of desired results.

Effective accountability is simple in concept but difficult to practice in that it requires good execution.  Accountability is best accomplished when we:

  1. Have a solid foundation and work to a clear strategic plan.

  1. Have identified specific metrics.

  1. Hold regular progress reviews.

The role of the leader is extremely important. 

The effective executive builds a culture of trust within the management team and a culture of valuing the organization over the individual.

He builds a team that works openly without personal and political agendas. 

Most importantly, the executive acts as the organization�s role model for effective accountability. He sets the standard for creating results by demonstrating an unwavering resolve to achieve initiatives. He follows the maxim �inspect what you expect� by reviewing progress and insisting that deadlines be met. He creates results by keeping himself accountable even as he provides accountability for his management and working teams.

Thomas R. Northup is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and is a nationally recognized management expert, consultant, speaker and coach. He is the author of the book, The Five Hidden Mistakes CEOs Make. How to Unlock the Secrets and Drive Growth and Profitability. Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times best-seller, What Got You Here Won�t Get You There, said about Five Mistakes �Gleaned from years of success as a CEO in his own right, Tom Northup masterfully provides practical wisdom and tools to move senior leaders beyond the status quo to help them see what they need to see, not just what they want to see.�  Tom is the former CEO and principal of three successful businesses, and he understands the business complexities faced by today�s busy executives. He is experienced in high growth situations, new product start-ups, strategic planning, market analysis, team operations, and turn-around/reorganization.  Today, through coaching, consulting, mentoring, and training, Tom provides practical experience and thoughtful leadership. Tom works side-by-side with clients to develop plans and implement strategies to �. build capabilities that increase revenue and profitability year after year, make companies more proactive in the marketplace, build effective management teams, foster greater corporate wide accountability and generate sustained results. He is a goal-oriented executive experienced in developing strong management teams all with a focus on driving continuous results and success.  Tom graduated with a BS in Mathematics from Bucknell University and has an MBA from Syracuse University. He is an active with the Forum for Corporate Directors, the Institute of Management Consultants and runs a CEO roundtable at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his book he has written many articles on management that have been published throughout the world.

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