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3 Steps to Harness the Power of Accountability

Using Chris McChesney’s 4DX system to create a winnable game.

Accountability has long been seen as a dirty word, one with a slew of negative connotations that almost read as accusations. Its more notorious bedfellows include blame, responsibility, onus, fault and even guilt, making it an intimidating concept for many.

Accountability has gotten a bad rap, and its presence in the modern workplace has often been as  either a kind of lip service or generic statement that everybody says but nobody understands. When used as a tool of blame, its essence is completely overlooked.

Read on for our top tips in how to harness the power of accountability, using the 4DX Method. 

  1. Understand Accountability

Accountability is an obligation and pledge to own commitments and actions, usually as an assurance from one party to another.

Smart Company lists honesty with self, valuing others, record keeping, responsibility, doing the right thing and acting promptly as essential parts of accountability in business, while Inc offers three clear ways to make accountability part of corporate culture, including making room for failure, setting SMART goals and empowering a team.

These general definitions are helpful, but without a system in place will only serve as insincere platitudes or vague words in employee manuals. In order for accountability to thrive, your people need to know what they’re working towards.

A staggering 81 percent of the people surveyed said they were not held accountable for regular progress.

The advantage of understanding accountability means using its rhythm, structure and essence to empower your team. That’s where The 4 Disciplines of Execution come in.

2. Create a Cadence of Accountability

The fourth step of Chris McChesney, Jim Huling and Sean Covey’s 4 Disciplines of Execution, a system, workshop and book by the same name, is Create a Cadence of Accountability.

The fourth discipline is the real heart of the execution process: It’s about making team members commit long-term to the goal.

Under the 4DX process, teams meet each week and assess their scoreboard, the shared document that tracks progress and plainly shows whether the team is winning or losing. The meeting is purposeful, concise and clearly structured, and follows a simple pattern:

  1. Each employee determines which one or two things they could do over the next week to have the biggest impact on the scoreboard.

  2. The team then reports on whether or not they met the commitments of the previous week.

  3. There is a final review of the scoreboard and the coming week’s projects and activities.

These weekly meetings need not last more than 20 minutes, but must provide an opportunity for an honest and transparent assessment of progress.

3. Take Ownership

Chris McChesney believes that the magic of accountability occurs when individuals are accountable to each and every member to their team, not just their manager or boss. Furthermore, when they choose and take ownership of their own commitments, they’re more engaged and motivated to succeed. For leaders, their role becomes ensuring said goals are specific and linked to the organisation’s greater mission.

A huge increase in accountability means morale and engagement also go up.

A Four Step Checklist

  • Accountability must be shared.

  • Regular WIG (Wildly Important Goals) meetings are essential.

  • Accountability is not just reserved for employees and their leaders; team members must be accountable to each other.

  • Focus should always be on the wildly important goals.

The power of the 4DX process comes in its structure, and the practice of highlighting success, analysing failure and course correcting where necessary. By keeping a scoreboard and tracking progress, everyone in your organisation has a chance to understand the game they’re playing, what the objectives and rules are and how they can win.

Each team should feel like they’re in a winnable game.



After a successful 2018 workshop series, Chris McChesney is bringing The 4 Disciplines of Execution back to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on 16, 18 and 20 September. The early bird price is still available so secure your place today.