The Three Levels of Accountability

In an age of ubiquitous social media and cell-phone videos, leaders know that one careless customer experience can go viral, ruining their corporate reputations and wrecking careers. They must therefore be transparent, conscientious and responsible to their global constituents, never forgetting that employees, customers and the community at large will hold them to the highest standards.

Leadership consultants John Blakey and Ian Day offer the following accountability pyramid in Challenging Coaching: Going Beyond Traditional Coaching to Face the FACTS :

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Level 1 accountability focuses on personal actions, learning and engagement. How do you hold yourself accountable? Which values, ambitions and goals drive you toward action?

In Level 2 accountability, more than one person is involved: a partnership, coaching or managerial relationship, business unit or team. Participants set common goals and agree to complete them together through shared responsibility, work and accountability.

Level 3 accountability includes stakeholders within a wider system: the business organization, department or division, other staff, customers, suppliers, shareholders and the public at large. Accountability measures may include written and unwritten mission statements, ethical standards and cultural norms.

Level 3 is where responsibility and accountability often break down, with a lack of clarity or blurred lines of reportability. Responsibility may be passed around and neglected within the wider system.

As for Level 2, some managerial and coaching relationships overemphasize personal behaviors without sufficiently linking them to the big picture and business results. Personal accountability (Level 1) must work in concert with Level 2 for sustainable success. Leaders require skill at all three levels to steer their corporate ships.

Look out for next week’s post on how to offer challenging, positive feedback to your employees that will foster a culture of accountability in your organization.


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