NOVEMBER 20, 2023

You Want Accountability? Start By Being Clear.

You want accountability? Start by being clear.

How many times have you communicated your expectations and the person you’re talking to walked away with their own set of assumptions?

I see this all the time, not because the listener wasn’t listening, but because the speaker wasn’t clear and direct, and didn’t take the time to first consider the listener’s point of view, knowledge base, and “come from state.”

In communication, all meaning happens on the side of the listener. All.

When we hold someone accountable, we often fear that it will come off as mean, or that we will be lowered in the other person’s mind. It’s called the “Competence/Likability Trap.”

This is based on fear, but fortunately, there’s a way around it.

It’s called Radical Candor, a term coined by Kim Scott. Here’s what it looks like:

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In her book, Scott tells us to challenge directly, while also showing that we care personally.


Aaliyah has spinach in her teeth. Rather than ignore it, call her out in a group, or put her down for not knowing, you whisper to her “Hey, you’ve got spinach in your teeth.”

Bob’s entering data incorrectly in the system. In a private conversation, you say. “Bob, I have noticed a lot of errors in your work lately. [Give examples]. Mistakes are a natural part of work, but given the frequency and scope of the errors, I felt I needed to let you know. I would hope someone would say something to me if I were causing duplicate work for the rest of the team. Could we take a look at the issues and together figure out a way to prevent them from happening in the future?”

In our Leadership Academy, we teach that with clear expectations, it becomes easier to collaborate, easier to understand who’s responsible for what, and how to measure success.

Clear is kind.