December 18

Our So Called Values – the nature and nuances of accountability


Why would you want to be held accountable if you could avoid it? Why would you intentionally set yourself up to be publicly hanged if you had other options?

On the other hand, what if being measurably accountable – especially when things went wrong – was seen as a sign of strength throughout your organization? What if being willing to be accountable could help you get that next raise or promotion? What if everyone was willing to be accountable and by adopting that posture, you were individually and collectively able to produce dramatically better results?

Those two diametrically opposing realities: accountability vs. non-accountability, is the choice you, as a leader, must make in determining which one you want to build your culture around. If you choose accountability, you must commit to positively acknowledging the people that are willing to be accountable when not meeting commitments.

Many leaders I have talked to over the years have asked me why would you want to positively acknowledge people that fail to meet their commitments?

My answer is: I’m not acknowledging their failure; I’m acknowledging their courage. When people are open about their “misses” it signals that they are willing to learn. And as a leader, it’s up to you to set up the mechanisms to correct mistakes by teaching people new skills or introducing new behaviors that have a better chance of being successful.

Creating a culture of accountability – what to do:
  • Look deeply at yourself. Determine what YOU are willing to be held accountable for. Accountability only works in a leadership by example culture. Anything short of that is delusional.
  • Once you determine your own tolerance for accountability, apply the same standard to your senior leadership team. Same principles apply. If members of your senior team are not willing to be as accountable as you, you have a serious issue. Confront and resolve it before you move forward. You have 3 options: Get everyone on the same page as you; or change your standards; or change your team member(s). It’s tough love – and it’s necessary.
  • Carefully frame and craft the message about what accountability means – it’s about continuous improvement, growth, and mastery – it’s NOT about punishment. Of course, that is only true in cases of making mistakes in the process of learning and experimenting – punishment should always apply when people commit moral or legal crimes – like the fiascos at Wells Fargo Bank, Volkswagen, and Enron.
  • Establish a company-wide framework, along with the processes and procedures for positively acknowledging people that excel and people that have missed the mark. And stick with it.
  • Set up and implement the coaching mechanisms for increasing everyone’s ability and progress in making and meeting their commitments.

The roadmap is simple. The journey is hard. The strong-willed make it happen. The rest settle for a standard that is less than great. It’s a choice.

Next time, I’ll talk about situational values. Stay tuned.


Bill is a Managing Partner at Axies Group – a consulting firm, focused primarily on helping leaders develop Balanced Organizations, focused on Vision, Values, Values-driven leadership, Culture, Strategy and Greater Purpose. Clients range from Fortune 500’s to mid-size companies to start-ups in many industries He has also been the CEO of both publicly held and privately owned companies. His book: Brand Delusions looks at Brands from a holistic perspective and has been critically acclaimed. You can learn more about him at:


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Book Reviews

Mastering Your Balance

Amazon Book Reviews

D. Thurman April 7, 2021

The areas of balance required to perform as a top level organization are lifted from the almost unconscious to the very conscious in Mastering Your Balance. As a business and executive coach I see business leaders mostly consumed 95% if the time with near term issues. A perpetual game of Whack-A-Mole.

Perhaps, getting the various elements covered in the book in play and more importantly in balance these leaders would have far less moles to whack, and therefore much more time and energy available execute on their greater purpose.

Shane Willard April 21, 2021

Bill & Jason get it. Having coached thousands of businesses and business leaders their insight is invaluable. They beautifully weave Vision, Values, Culture, Strategy & Purpose together into actionable steps any leader can implement. As they say, no matter how good one is at these individual elements, without balance greatness will always lie just behind your reach.

The 'what-would-it-take' concept in Chapter 2 makes you peel back the excuses and think creatively. "To achieve the impossible you must first envision the improbable."

At its core, this book serves as a blueprint for each vital element necessary to achieve success and balance organizationally (and personally). It reminds leadership where they need to focus.

Joe Fera April 1, 2021

What would it take to shatter your limiting beliefs and lead your company to heights only dreamed? Read ‘Mastering Your Balance’. Bill & Jason have demystified the ‘Dark Matter’ of great leadership and great organizations and boiled it down to highly actionable and implementable elements. Aha moments abound!

LR March 31, 2021

Mastering Your Balance answers the question and is a must read and reread for any organization daring to go from good to great! Mastering Your Balance shines a much needed light, drawing our attention to it, causing us to remember it's significance. More than words, we are reminded that a carefully crafted mission/vision statement is the organization's North Star.

Severin Sorensen March 24, 2021

As a business coach I'm always looking for books to inspire the human mind, and give direction to business owners seeking to raise their performance in the great game of business. Mastering Your Balance is one of those books. The authors are experienced in the art of giving profound advice to their clients.