7 Steps to Having an Accountability Conversation

Author: Victor

While accountability conversations are tough to have, they’re sometimes absolutely necessary. When done right, such conversations can become a constructive way to address issues, not through confrontation but through collaboration and mutual understanding. As a leader, there are going to be times where you’ll need to get your point across the room in an empathetic way.

After years of working with different companies as a Fractional CEO, I’ve come up with a 7-Step System for having accountability conversations. This system has worked for a wide range of industries including medical, legal and brick and mortar businesses. The whole idea of this 7 Step Process of having an accountability conversation is to ensure your team wins.

Without further ado, let’s dive right into my 7-Step process.

The Accountability Conversation System

My system works because I try taking sides with the individual you’re having this conversation with. They need help, and it’s pointless to play the “blame game”. You’ll probably have to think of ways to make the environment as friendly as possible to make sure nothing is taken the wrong way. After you’ve done that, follow this guide!

Notes, Notes, Notes

Begin by collecting relevant data on the individual’s performance. This could include sales reports, customer feedback, project timelines, and previous performance appraisals. Preparation should be comprehensive, using tangible metrics to provide a baseline for the performance discussions. Then, answer the following questions:

  • Was it the behavior of the individual that’s warranting this discussion?
  • If so, how has their behavior impacted the goals of the company?
  • If it wasn’t their behavior, what’s the reason you’re about to have this conversation with them?
  • How can I help this person stay on track and help them grow?
  • How do I show them how important their work is for the organization?


As you begin the conversation, be very specific about the problem at hand. Don’t be harsh but at the same time, communicate how the individual is impacting the overall performance of their team or company. The goal here is to be specific about the problem and share why you’re having this conversation with them. It’s important to maintain an approachable tone at this stage. You don’t want to act like a “victim” or make your team member feel like an “aggressor”.



In this phase, review the original commitments made by the individual or team. Suggest how you can help them fulfill their commitment to the company and grow as a professional. Ensure that the member/team understands their role in the broader vision of the company and the importance of their contribution to its success. This step solidifies the link between individual actions and organizational outcomes. Suggestion is the way to go about this. Being bossy seldom works, and you have to make your employees/team members feel like they’re standing on the same level as you.

Develop an Action Plan

After discussing the areas needing improvement, collaboratively create an action plan with specific, measurable steps for improvement. This should include task/behavioral accountability and benchmarks to assess the improvements they’ve made. Discuss resources and the support available to help them meet these goals, and schedule progress check-ins to monitor ongoing performance. This step turns feedback into a forward-looking plan that empowers individuals to take control of how they want to improve.

Conclude In A Positive Way

End the conversation in a positive manner. The person you’ve just interacted with was hired because you thought they were capable of doing a job and it’s your job as a leader to ensure that they work their way to success. Conversations like this can be tough but it’s important to make sure you’re talking to people on an emotional level. They’ve formed a bond with the company they’re working for, and it’s likely they want to see the business succeed.

Follow Ups and Rewards

The progress check-ins you just setup should be taken very seriously. Take some time out to indulge the relevant departments and yourself to see if the individual has started making the changes they promised. Follow ups are also important because it will help them realize that they’re an important part of the company. It’s also going to help you analyze if you need to have another conversation with them or reward them. If they’re doing a good job, maybe treat them somewhere nice or award them an extra leave. It’s essential that you try reinforcing the required behavior with rewards as it trains your team to openly discuss problems instead of making it a bottleneck.

Conversations like this are what makes an organization a success. Remember… you’re working with human beings. Human beings who are willing to help you grow a business. It’s very important to make everyone in the team/company see how important their role is. If they’re off track, it’s your job to lead them back on the road.