Pat is highly irritated. For the third staff meeting in a row, Steve, a subordinate and a strong performer in handling day-to-day operations, failed to meet the deadline for an action item related to a strategic initiative. Three weeks ago, when Steve first missed the date, Pat was sympathetic. Pat knew Steve had a long list of urgent requests vying for his time. So when Steve asked for an additional week to complete the action, Pat granted the request without hesitation. At last week’s meeting, however, Steve still had not completed the action and once more he requested and received a one-week extension. When Steve arrived at today’s meeting with more excuses for why he couldn’t get to the strategic initiative, and when three other people also had reasons for not getting to their actions, Pat realized he had a big problem on his hands.

Sound familiar? Leaders often face the problem of addressing subordinates who are relatively strong performers, but who chronically miss deadlines. It is not unusual for the deadlines to be on special projects or activities outside the normal day-to-day operation. The situation can be perplexing. As one leader said to me, “What am I going to do? Fire them for missing a deadline?”

The Accountability Dice

In the scenario above, Pat’s willingness to NOT hold Steve accountable for missing deadlines, may have communicated to other staff members that deadlines are not important. The result: more staff members providing excuses for not meeting targets. One strategy for increasing accountability, without firing people, is the implementation of the “Accountability Dice.” While it is fun, the strategy also helps team members hold one another accountable for supporting the team’s vision and norms.

1. When people agree that they failed to implement a strategy for which they are accountable or violated an operating norm, they roll a die.

2. The six numbers on the die correspond to six consequences that the team establishes in advance. For example, the team might establish consequences such as the following:

  • 1 – An hour of cleaning up the team’s supply room and break room
  • 2 – For two hours, assist a designated team member (outside the person’s direct line)
  • 3 – Free space (no consequence)
  • 4 – $20 to the team’s party fund
  • 5 – Bring in breakfast snacks for the team each day for a week
  • 6 – Implement a new idea in the next 30 days to support the team

3. If the same person fails to implement the same strategy, or violates the same operating norm a second time, the person rolls the die. For the second roll for the same issue, the team establishes in advance a much more severe set of consequences, without a free space.

Final Thought

When people are asked to give an account for their actions, or lack thereof, and when there are positive or negative consequences related to their results, a stronger focus on execution is typically the result. Consider implementing a strategy for accountability, such as the accountability dice. For, as the example suggests, when a leader does not hold people accountable, he or she may be spreading a negative culture that infects others. Learn more strategies for leadership through our leadership training courses.