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Extreme Accountability—How to Get Executives to “Own It”

by | Culture



I believe most people have a little bit of a fear that they won’t be successful.


In this episode, I’m going to show you a powerful way for you to get your executives to understand that they own all the results for the entire organization—not just their silo—and what to do with that knowledge.


If you’re the kind of leader who:


  • Feels like you’re still the one who is “nagging” your team to hit deadlines and outcomes, or if you’re tired of being the “bad cop,” then you’re going to love this because I’m going to show you how to get your team to hold themselves accountable. And YOU get to be the “good cop”—which is the job you should have.
  • Feels that your team is full of A-players and you can count on them to deliver, but they still don’t say something when someone is behind or struggling, leaving that to you, you‘ll want to watch this with your executive team so they can come to a consensus about their roles.
  • Has a magical team, and the accountability is flawless—nobody lets ANYBODY off the hook, AND they know how to do it in a way that furthers the relationship instead of diminishing it, you’re going to discover how to make things even better.


…You’re going to love this!


There are three common challenges when you introduce extreme accountability to your executive team.


  • First, if you’ve been together a while and have become friends, you may be lacking some healthy dissidence. You want people challenging and pushing each other to think more clearly and execute more flawlessly.
  • Second, people play a little game called, “I won’t call you out, and I expect the same from you. Leave me alone when I miss a deadline or outcome.” Yes, it’s WILDLY dysfunctional, but it does exist in many executive teams.
  • And third, some people become deflated when they are losing at work. Out of “compassion,” the others back off.


Unfortunately, that “act of kindness” actually ends up costing that person their job more often than not, so it’s not very kind at all, is it?

In talking to thousands of bank CEOs over the last 20+ years, I hear these three over and over again.

So how do we deal with it?


Here are three steps that will clean up the worst of the dysfunctional team behaviors.


Step 1

Create the “Rules of Engagement” for the executive team.

Unlike so many rah-rah, happy-happy, “team-building” exercises that are like Chinese food—you’re hungry an hour later—you need to go into the eye of the needle and create an understanding of the behaviors that are expected of your executives. Then, delineate the behaviors that won’t cut it anymore.

From “meetings outside of meetings” where people don’t say what they think in the meeting but then stir the pot afterward…

To not speaking up…

To pretending not to know…

You want to be clear about the behaviors you don’t ever want to see around that executive team table. Let everyone understand what gets you voted off the island.

Step 2

Create “Healthy” Dissidence. Executive learning doesn’t just happen “between the ears.” Sure, book/classroom learning is great, but executive-level decision-making capabilities only come from making executive decisions and practicing candor with their peers.

As a result, executives go silent and “endure.” You want to make sure your team gets educated on how to bring healthy dissidence and extreme commitment to outcomes.

Step 3

Complete responsibility for the results of the entire bank. Unlike many executive development programs where they teach you to “run your division,” healthy and sustainable organizations have a different distinction. If you’re on the executive team, you’re responsible for EVERYTHING. That doesn’t mean you get in and do everything—you run your division first.

It means that if something isn’t working in some other division, you say something, you offer solutions, and you make sure everyone knows this can’t continue. You DON’T wait for the CEO to have to do that, or you have just proven you’re “management” material instead of “executive” material.


Again, first, make it absolutely clear which behaviors you expect and what you won’t tolerate from your team. Then, demonstrate and teach healthy dissidence. If they care enough about the organization, they should push up against each other often. Finally, enroll your team in the idea that each one is responsible for EVERYTHING, and if there is any part of the organization that isn’t working, it’s their fault too. They need to rise to the occasion.

By getting your executive team to hold each other accountable to deadlines and outcomes, you know you can sleep at night because the strategic plan WILL be met or exceeded. It’s an insurance policy that means your bank gets to stay in business.

Make sure you tune in next time where I’ll show you how to deal with any shortcomings in the emotional intelligence of your team on average so that you can raise your chance of success and do it with more ease.

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