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Peer-to-peer accountability: The key to building high-performance teams

CEOs, especially those entrepreneurial founders or visionaries we work with, often show a reluctance to engage in challenging conversations, which is crucial for holding their executive teams accountable. This tendency can hinder effective leadership and organisational growth, suggesting a need for a personality transplant or a different approach. Peer accountability is the solution. Start with the executive team and cascade through the organisation.

Peer-to-peer accountability strengthens your team’s unity. When team members are encouraged to hold each other accountable, it leads to productive discussions and debates on important matters without anyone feeling exposed or attacked. With a decent set of KPIs and OKRs, this is as close to a silver bullet as I can find to drive execution.

What is accountability in the context of organisational and business teams? Does it mean putting the blame for failure on a particular individual? Does it mean fault-finding? Does it mean creating an opportunity for the team leader to say, “I told you so” when things go south? No, that is destructive accountability.

As a team leader, you should aim for constructive accountability.

In high-performing leadership teams, members hold each other accountable and expect the same in return. The CEO doesn’t need to act as a traditional authority figure to ensure everyone takes responsibility for their goals. Team members embrace a growth mindset and welcome feedback to enhance their performance. They recognise the importance of their performance to their fellow team members, motivating them to strive for maximum effectiveness.

constructive feedback

In an upcoming compelling discussion on Mind Your F**king Business Podcast with Andrew McAfee, author of “The Geek Way,” we explored the detrimental dynamics of the “liars club” within executive teams. This scenario, where team members avoid holding each other accountable, can have dire consequences. McAfee’s insights shed light on how such avoidance of difficult conversations undermines trust and can lead to organisational downfall, highlighting critical lessons on the importance of transparency and accountability at the level.

In constructive accountability, the traditional top-down authoritative model is insufficient. As a leader,, you must let your guard down and build trust among your peers. You need to allow them to give real-time feedback to each other.

How can you initiate accountability as a CEO?

Mentoring and training play a crucial role in leadership. As a leader, you can teach your team members how to be accountable and offer constructive feedback and recognition with the same focus on the team’s overall performance. Here are a few actions you can take:

Lead by example

Team members often hesitate to provide feedback to their peers on performance. It’s vital to communicate clearly that you welcome their input and won’t take offence if they point out issues. Embrace all feedback constructively.

When providing feedback, ensure it’s constructive, not critical. The goal is to learn from experiences and propel the team forward collectively. 

Accountability is key; be open about your vulnerabilities. For instance, share your own weaknesses with your team members. This openness encourages trust and promotes growth. 

For instance, consider a situation where a team member suggests improving a project plan. Instead of feeling hesitant, they should feel encouraged to share their ideas, knowing that their feedback is valued and contributes to the team’s success.

Set clear expectations

Team expectations

To establish clarity, set clear expectations for your team. Develop a team charter that outlines the team’s purpose, behaviours, and expectations. Teams can feel lost without a shared vision, which occurs when they lack a clear understanding of their responsibilities.

Here, my tool of choice for executive teams is the Targert Operating Model. A Target Operating Model (TOM) streamlines executive team meetings and focuses efforts on what truly matters. By integrating concepts like Porter’s Value Chain Analysis and key process flows, TOM maps out critical business processes through a customer journey lens, assigning ownership and defining metrics for each function. This approach identifies priorities, facilitates ownership of functions, and uses a red, amber, or green status to highlight areas needing attention.

A TOM assists exec team members in aligning their individual goals with the team’s objectives and, in turn, aligns the team’s goals with the organisation’s overarching goals. This alignment ensures everyone understands their role in achieving collective success.

Communicate frequently

Maintain regular communication, especially in remote work settings. While face-to-face interactions may be limited, establish mechanisms for continuous feedback, recognition, and support.

I often recommend teams embrace the Level 10 Meeting framework, a powerful tool for enhancing accountability and clarity within executive teams. This structured approach ensures that meetings are productive, focused on solving issues effectively, and conducive to driving progress. It’s designed to keep the team aligned, engaged, and moving forward towards their collective goals. For a detailed explanation of how to implement this framework and its benefits, visiting Monkhouse & Company’s guide on Level 10 Meetings can be valuable.

The key is to ensure clarity and consistency in your communication efforts, maintaining a sense of connection and collaboration among team members, even when physically distant.

Clarity and consistency are essential.

Stop micro-managing

Build trust within your team by avoiding excessive control and micromanagement. Trust is vital to sustain accountability, and it can be cultivated by giving your team space to excel in their respective roles.

Your role as CEO is to guide and inspire your talented exec team members. You don’t need to possess superior expertise in their areas; instead, focus on extracting the best from each team member, allowing their strengths to shine.

For example, imagine you have a top chef in your kitchen. You wouldn’t hover over them and micro-manage the cooking process; instead, you trust their culinary skills to deliver a delightful meal.

Start delegating. Stop micro-managing. Trust them that they will do their best.

Why accountable teams thrive

Team accountability

Executive teams thrive when accountability is mutual and not overshadowed by the leader’s presence. This environment allows team members to provide feedback directly to one another, fostering open communication and reducing the need to always involve the CEO. This approach not only streamlines problem-solving but also empowers team members, creating a more dynamic and responsive leadership structure.

Other than this, I list a few reasons accountable teams thrive more below.

  • Improved communication: In such teams, team members are more likely to share information, give feedback and exchange ideas.
  • Greater trust: Team members can rely on each other for unbiased feedback. They know they have a safe space for expressing themselves.
  • Clear ownership: Team members take responsibility for their work and actions. They feel empowered to make decisions.
  • Boosted morale: Everybody feels valued and appreciated. Contributions are recognised. They enjoy a supportive and positive work environment.
  • Better performance: Everyone is motivated to achieve high standards and strive for excellence.
  • More learning: Team members share their knowledge and skills with each other. They actively seek feedback and guidance from their peers.
  • Unbridled growth: Since they are constantly sharing their knowledge and skills, team members get to develop their core competencies and capabilities. They can also pursue new opportunities and challenges.
  • Greater innovation: Diverse perspectives come together. There is a collective experience. There is an abundance of new ideas and solutions.
  • Better alignment of personal and team goals: Team members who trust each other and share a common vision are more likely to collaborate effectively. They take ownership of their work. They also identify and resolve misalignments in a timely manner.


Want to create a high-performance team? Do you want your team to run on autopilot, where you have to intervene only when your expertise is required, and that expertise cannot be provided by anyone else? You need to encourage peer-to-peer accountability.

Ensuring that executive team members hold each other accountable is a testament to effective leadership, not its absence. It’s about empowering the team to manage their own accountability, freeing the CEO from being the sole focal point of responsibility. This approach enables leaders to focus on empowering their team, fostering a culture of mutual support and shared responsibility, ultimately enriching the organization’s leadership dynamics and effectiveness.

Written by business coach and CEO mentor Dominic Monkhouse, read more of his work here. Read his new book, Mind Your F**king Business here.

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