The Three C’s of Accountability

Three C's of accountability
I wrote recently about why it is hard to hold someone accountable. It’s no fun dealing with issues when work isn’t completed, and we can avoid this by doing a good job managing accountability.  To help you learn how to manage accountability, I’ve created a simple model. These are the three C’s of accountability.

Managing accountability begins with our first conversation, when we request something. Your request must have clarity to generate a clear understanding of what is expected. I’ve mentioned many times, commitment is the key to accountability. Effective leaders know how to generate a committed promise to fulfill the request. Once the agreement is in place, you need courage to maintain accountability. The three C’s of accountability are:

  • Clarity
  • Commitment
  • Courage

Let’s take a brief look at each of them and why they are so important.

The Three C’s of Accountability


It is essential to create a full understanding of what is required. Often times we talk about what we need, but miss many of the important details. For example, when is it required? How will we assess whether it is complete? Who is going to do it? Why is it needed? I see so many painful breakdowns resulting from omission of these simple facts.


There is a world of difference between commitment and compliance. I learned this the hard way when I began my career focus on gaining compliance. I was frequently having to check to see if things were complete. When I learned to lead with commitment, I could trust the performer to take accountability for delivering the promised outcome. I needed to stay in touch and offer help when needed, but I didn’t need to manage every aspect to ensure completion.


Every leader needs courage to have the difficult conversations. When you don’t do this you are often left with missing conversations. These are conversations you know you need to have but don’t for fear of making things worse. When they are done well, things rarely get worse. When conversations are avoided, they almost always do. You can make things easier by giving regular and early feedback to your team members about how they are performing. If you establish a culture of providing regular constructive feedback, those difficult conversations become so much easier.

Managing accountability is one of the most difficult things a leader needs to do. By focusing on the three C’s of accountability, you can make your job so much easier.