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E184 | How to Create a Culture of Accountability with Mark Green

If you’re the CEO and you think people should get to meetings on time, yet you don’t, that’s never going to create a culture of accountability.

Luckily for you, on this week’s episode of Mind Your F**king Business Podcast, we have the author of the book Creating a Culture of Accountability, business and leadership coach and speaker, Mark Green. 

“The reason I wrote the book is because I have yet to observe an organisation of any size and scope, anywhere on the planet in any industry, who one way or another didn’t have a significant struggle with accountability.”

If you’re thinking – well we don’t have an accountability problem, be truthful: do things always get accomplished by your team? Without drama? On a regular basis? 


If you want to learn how to make people in your organisation more accountable, don’t miss Mark explain his definition of accountability. He also shares the exercise he gets his clients to undertake about how to identify what they’re accountable for. And he explains the three elements of accountability. 

On today’s podcast:

  • Creating a culture of accountability
  • Don’t equate accountable with contribution
  • Three elements to accountability
  • Role accountability
  • Process accountability
  • Leading by example 


The three elements of accountability at work with Mark Green

Mark Green is a speaker, author, strategic advisor and business and leadership growth coach to CEOs and executive teams worldwide. He’s addressed, coached, and advised thousands of business leaders across a wide range of industries over the past 20 years.

Today, Mark coaches CEOs with US$ 50-400 million in revenue who are stuck in the “Growth Trap”. That is, businesses which are already successful, that are obsessed with creating scale, but cannot predictably generate the financial or quality of life results they want through their organisation.

He’s the author of two books,  “Activators – a CEO’s Guide to Clearer Thinking and Getting Things Done” and “Creating a Culture of Accountability” – both of which help business leaders tackle costly, real-world issues with practical, easy-to-implement research-based tools and techniques.

“The reality is, if you’re a $10 million company aspiring to be a $100 million company, then you need to start acting like the $100 million company today, because that’s what will grow you to be that.”

But just how do you create accountability in an organisation?

Creating a culture of accountability

First things first, who in your leadership team has had experience operating in their role in a $100 million company? 

If the answer is the people on your leadership team are the same ones who’ve been with you since the beginning, who maybe you holidayed with, who you have emotional entanglements with, then it’s going to be tough. 

But, in order to get the company to where you need it to go, and you’ve outgrown the person in the role, you have to take accountability and replace them with additional capability to continue to grow the business. 

“The reason I wrote the book is because I have yet to observe an organisation of any size and scope, anywhere on the planet in any industry, who one way or another didn’t have a significant struggle with accountability.”

While most organisations talk the talk, few walk the walk, because they lack the understanding of how to actually approach accountability, says Mark. For example, what are the mechanics of creating a highly accountable culture? Do you know what the elements are that make it up?

Don’t equate accountable with contribution

If you’re thinking – well we don’t have an accountability problem, be truthful: do things always get accomplished by your team? Without drama? On a regular basis? 

“Do you have persistent problems in the organisation that are annoying, and that you’ve tried to solve, but they just never seem to go away? Because these are all symptoms of an underlying lack of accountability in the organisation.”

Just don’t equate accountability with contribution. Because they aren’t the same thing. 

For example, says Mark, if you’ve got a project that mostly focuses around marketing, don’t automatically assume because someone has marketing expertise, they should also be accountable for the project. 

Being accountable simply means counting and monitoring progress. Making sure that the project stays on track. The person who’s accountable doesn’t have to be the one doing the work. Nor do they have to thrash themselves to heroically save the project, just because they’re ‘accountable’.

“Accounting for the project includes being the canary in the coal mine – the early warning system, so that you can create the resources to course correct, whatever it is you’re accountable for.”

Three elements to accountability

The other thing about accountability, says Mark, is it’s not one thing – there’s three elements to accountability, all of which are useful containers for a leader to think about when they think about creating a culture of accountability in their organisation. These are: 

  1. Role accountability
  2. Process accountability
  3. Leading by example

Let’s explore each one a little more in depth.

Role accountability

Role accountability is about answering the question: what does the company expect in return for the investment it makes on your salary? The other part of this is, we’re hard wired to think in terms of activity, not results, not outcomes. 

And the thing is, says Mark, verbs cannot be outcomes. Nouns are outcomes. ‘Managing’, ‘cultivating’, ‘doing’, these aren’t outcomes. 

For the Chief Operating Officer, for example, ‘managing the accounts’, isn’t an outcome. Net Promoter Score, Operating Income, Error Rate, these things are outcomes. These are things you’re actually accountable for. Because for each of thes you can establish accountability, you can establish targets, and the target can become goals. 

The role of accountability, even without targets, is clear because it specifies the outcomes. 

Role accountability exercise:

Sit your team down, hand out blank index cards and ask everybody in the room to put their role at the top of the card. No names, it’s simply going to say, CFO, or CIO, or CEO, or head of marketing, or SVP of sales, or whatever their role is. 

Have them take a moment and write down what they think are the three most important outcomes of their role that generates the return to the company on why they’re paid. 

Said another way – how do they justify their salary? What are the outcomes that they produce that justify their salary? CEOs should do it too.

“What you’re gonna find is, first of all, half the room is going to be focused on verbs, not nouns. They’re all going to be actions, not outcomes. Second of all, you’re going to end up with multiple people in the room who think they’re accountable for the same thing. And the cardinal rule of accountability is that only one person can be accountable for any one thing. Because when more than one person is accountable, no one is accountable.”

In essence, you can’t create a culture of accountability if people don’t understand fundamentally what they’re accountable for. 

Process accountability

“A lack of process accountability means either we haven’t clearly defined our organisational processes, or we are not holding people accountable to the organisation process. And what’s missing is an accountable person for the process.”

Think of process accountability like organising your wardrobe. Every few years you think – this is a mess, I’ll give it a good clean out. And for a few months it’s spotless, but then it starts to get cluttered and unorganised again. Until you get sick of the sight of it and have another clean out. 

But what if you continually put in a small amount of energy to keep your closet clean all the time, so that it’s always efficient and not messy and you don’t have to go through a huge overhaul process every time you want to clean up. 

Leading by example 

“I would argue that of the three, this [leading by example] is the most important and the starting point. Have you ever been in a situation where you worked for somebody who told you how it should be? But then they did it a different way? How’d that workout for you?”

Leading by example isn’t just showing up to meetings on time, says Mark, yes this is a part of it, but are you exhibiting the behaviour yourself that you want to see in others? 

You have to realise as a leader that your behaviour isn’t just what you do and what you say, but also the things you praise and reward in others, and the things you tolerate in them too. The things you correct or punish, these are all indicators that people notice. 


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