by Peter Bregman

John was doing his best to be calm, but his frustration was palpable. Jeanine was explaining that there was little chance her group was going to make the numbers for this quarter. “Honestly?” she said. “The numbers weren’t realistic to begin with. It was really unlikely that we were going to make them.”

That’s when John lost it. “You agreed to the numbers in our budget meeting! You came up with them!”  Jeanine was silent for a while. Then she stammered out a weak defense that John promptly tore apart.

Later, when John and I were debriefing the conversation, he asked me a question that I have heard countless times from countless leaders.  “How do I get my people to be more accountable for results?”

Accountability is not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong. It’s not a confession. Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It’s responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.

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