Generate Accountability From Within

Core Strengths Accountability is the essential ingredient to developing personal and organizational accountability.

When we ask leaders what they really want when it comes to accountability in their organizations, we get a variety of responses but they almost always land on two ideals: Ownership and Initiative. To paraphrase the collective responses from more than 40 years of asking that question: “I want people to take ownership of their responsibilities and to take initiative in their work.”

In too many organizations, however, that’s just not happening. Even the most highly skilled and well-intentioned workers too often fall short when it comes to owning their responsibilities and taking initiative in their work.

Leaders typically try to solve this by using processes and systems to promote accountability – they do things like schedule meetings, assign and measure key metrics, and use the latest and greatest task or project management software. But those systems and processes don’t always lead to the best behaviors, and the results suffer.

What’s typically missing is a connection to motivations.


When we find ourselves in a high-stakes situation, we naturally tap into our personal motivations (the way we’re hard-wired to approach things) and draw on the strengths that feel best to us. Very often, however, they aren’t the ones that work best for the situation. By developing a better understanding of our motivations and what’s motivating the people around us, we can make better decisions about how to respond. And because we then own the choices around those actions, we naturally become more accountable for the results.

Traditional approaches to accountability focus on a one-size-fits-all set of techniques that don’t consider individual differences. At the root of most of these techniques is the assumption that one person can “hold” another person accountable: “If I do or say the right things, in the right way, I’ll get other people to do what they are ‘supposed’ to do.” But telling people what to do, or even asking them nicely, only generates compliance – not a true sense of ownership and real accountability.

True accountability can’t be demanded or imposed. It happens only when people are empowered to choose the strengths that are best for them and the situation they face – especially when the stakes are high. When people feel coerced, they may comply – but they do so only as long as they are experiencing external pressure, and their compliance isn’t sustainable.

The Core Strengths Accountability approach teaches people how to choose strengths in light of motivations, which allows them to produce better results for themselves, their team, and their organization. Having a choice of which strengths to use fosters real accountability, because people feel personally responsible for what they freely choose, and they take ownership of their choices, actions, and most important – their results.

The skill of accountability connects work to a person’s motives (taking ownership) to deploy the right strength at the right time (taking initiative) to create personal responsibility. That’s the heartbeat of Core Strengths Accountability.