Well that seems obvious doesn’t it? Yes. It surely is. However, it’s the practice of accountability that holds back effective performance management because so many managers do it poorly. What I hear from clients is: “We’re fine at managing performance, we just have a communication problem.” Or, “Oh, yeah, our managers are skilled at managing performance they just don’t do a very good job at holding people accountable.” Both are the same. Managing performance and the practice of accountability are hand-in-glove. You are not good at managing performance if you are not good at holding others to account. 

The reason we struggle to hold others to account is because we continue to see accountability as discipline–it’s the conversation we have as a last result when things continue to go badly or wrong or not as expected or desired. The practice of accountability is not an act of discipline; it’s an act of clarity. Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. (Thank you Brené Brown.) When you practice accountability as such, it’s not “fierce” nor is it “crucial.” It is kindness and clarity which is what we all need to do our jobs well. 

Accountability is at the heart of every relationship you have. It’s part of our mutual agreement in how we show up to do the work. We must touch on it consistently and frequently to have a healthy relationship. It sits squarely in the middle of what Performance Management asks of managers.

Here’s this list of Performance Management practices and where the practice of accountability fits:

Performance Management is the process your organization uses to ensure that employees are working towards organizational goals and objectives effectively. It involves various activities and strategies aimed at improving individual, team and organizational performance. The following list are the key aspects of performance management:


You cannot hold employees accountable for unclear or unstated expectations.

 Setting Objectives: Performance management begins with setting clear, specific and measurable goals and expectations for employees in alignment with the overall objectives of the business.

Accountability lives here as part of continuous feedback. 

 Continuous Monitoring: Supervisors and managers continuously oversee employee performance to ensure that they are on tract to achieve their goals and expectations. Regular feedback is provided, which can be both positive and reinforcing or constructive.

Accountability lives here as managers require employees to speak to how they are continuing to develop and address challenges.

 One-on-One’s: These are periodic meetings between a manager and employee to talk more broadly and in-depth about how things are going with an employee and to address any emergent challenges or issues as well as to touch base on development plan achievement.

Accountability lives here employees speak to how they feel they are performing and address areas where they have struggled.

 Performance Appraisals: Periodic performance appraisals or evaluations are conducted to assess an employee’s performance over a specific period of time. This evaluation often involves comparing actual performance against the set of objectives.

This is the primary way to practice good accountability. Feedback is more than just a download of information about performance. It’s where ownership is taken and discussed for improvement going forward.

 Feedback: Managers must regularly let employees know how well they are performing and provide insight into their improvement. This is the communication tool managers use as part of their continuous monitoring. This can be both light touch attention or it can be more specific meaningful and useful information for employees to do something differently.

Accountability lives here to ensure effort and commitment to on-going develop is achieved.

 Coaching: This is a different conversation and practice to aide in developing employee performance. This is specific time set aside to work on skill development or behavior change with an employee. It is not the same as Feedback and requires a different set of skills.

Recognition: This is a practice that managers and supervisor’s practice to demonstrate gratitude and acknowledgement for work done exceedingly well, or effort outside a role, or for exercising emergent practices that benefit the business in some way amongst other things appreciated by managers. 

Accountability lives here to formalize ongoing effort and commitment to development and career opportunity is leveraged.

 Development Plans/Goals: This is the effort to maintain a continuous focus on employee growth and development within a role as well as the business and in their career. It provides specific details on areas for improvement and objectives for readiness at the next level or in another area of the business. 

This is where accountability and consequences actually meet up. With a good practice of accountability, this should be a rare event for managers.

 Performance Improvement Plans (PIP’s): These are agreements with employees who have continuously underperformed within the expectations and goals of their roles. They generally outline specific actions to be taken within a specific timeframe. These tend to be a consequence due to a lack of personal ownership and responsibility for meeting expectations.

Documentation: Performance management involves keeping records of employees’ performance, including their achievements, areas for improvement, feedback provided and any actions taken to aide in their growth and development.

You cannot hold employees accountable for expectations that are not set or are unclear. So accountability for managers is important here.

 Goal Adjustment: Sometimes organizational goals or individual objectives may need to be adjusted based on changing circumstances or priorities. Performance management requires managers to manage and adjust expectations accordingly to ensure they remain relevant and achievable.


Some form of accountability must be practiced at pretty much every stage of Performance Management, which is why you cannot have good Performance Management without a good practice of Accountability. They go hand-in-hand. If accountability practices are poor, it’s probably why you feel you’ve got a “communication problem” as accountability is, at its core, a communication skill set.

These capabilities are best learned together to ensure the practice of both work together on the job every day. To learn more about how you can do this, click here.