Accountability: Overcoming Low Accountability Thresholds, Part 2

Published on: June 1, 2014

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Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 we discussed job descriptions and the difference between responsibility and accountability. Shifting a bit, we will discuss the second type of accountability issue: overcoming low accountability thresholds through accountable actions.

As leaders, ministers, board members and key team members, we all come into contact with people who exhibit low accountability thresholds. Maybe we even have or exhibit a few of these ourselves, if we are honest and look, see and tell the truth about how we show up. (Refer to the Winter issue’s article for a short list of common accountability issues that often reveal themselves in some fashion in ministry.)

Take a moment to consider these questions:

  • How good are you at holding people accountable?
  • How willing are you to hold people accountable?
  • How willing are you to hold people accountable for doing what they said they would do?

In this article we will review support actions that a leader (or person) can take to increase accountability thresholds and to create a clear context for accountable actions. The process is not magic. It takes effort and energy to support someone in seeing a low accountability threshold and in choosing to make the shifts required for change. Yet, accountability of all team members (or class participants) is imperative for the effective functioning of a team (or class), and the higher the levels of accountability, the more effective are the results for both teams and the ministry.


Actions to Support Accountability

Be Immediate in Addressing Issues.

  • Address issues in the moment to the person involved. Waiting only increases and affects pressure and attitudes.

Be Non-Reactive.

  • Address the issue only after you have collected yourself. This means addressing the issue from a non-reactive presence and state.

State the Facts While Neutralizing.

  • Imagine someone is sharing the following concern about an issue with you. Which of the following generates a more neutral response when you hear it:
    –    “You didn’t get that report done, what were you doing?”
    –    “The report was due on Wednesday, and it is Friday; what happened?”
  • “You” is a trigger word and it immediately calls forth a desire to defend.
  • Conversations can be neutralized through the use of facts that are not aimed in a personal direction.
  • Stay conscious and avoid the use of the word “you”: you did this, you did not do this, etc.
  • Reframe to neutralize.

Get Clear Agreements.

  • “I will do better next time” is not an agreement.
  • Conscious discussions address cause.
    –    Disorganization: What actions will they take to assure more organization in their work?
    –    Lack of Follow-Through: What specific actions and in what timeframe will they complete what is theirs to do?
    –    Over-Extended or Over-Committed: What items or activities can they begin to eliminate or say no to and by when will they do it?
    –    Lack of Prioritization: How will they initiate a prioritization process and how will they decide the level of importance of projects? Alone or in a team?
    –    Lack of Ability to Complete Work: What skills are they willing to learn to enhance their work style?
    °  Do not make the error of unconsciously taking over their work in order to make up for their lack of skill or knowledge.
    –    Abusive Language or Behaviors: What actions will be taken to assure new and acceptable behaviors are in place? What actions will take place if this is not adhered to: Human Resources involved, disciplinary action, etc.?
  • Without clear agreements or solutions you will have short-term motivation but nothing that will be sustained over a long period of time.
    –    Keep notes and follow up with them on their agreements.

Be Honest.

  • When you have come to the end of your resources for support or options available, let the person know and be clear as to what next steps you need to take.
  • There are natural consequences for not doing what one said one would do, so breathe and don’t take this personally.
  • As manager, supervisor or team leader, you are an agent of the organization assuring success as a part of a team.

Share Accountabilities Concerns.

  • Keep those you report to in the information loop, as soon as you see that patterns are not changing.

Influence and Change or Leave.

  • If things don’t improve, one must take responsibility for either accepting the situation or removing oneself from it.
  • Do not stay and complain if you are not willing to participate in changing the situation.


Toni G. Boehm
Peace and Transitional Ministry Support Consultant at Unity Worldwide Ministries
Rev Toni G Boehm, PhD, is Ministry Skills & Transition Ministry Support Coordinator for UWM. She has supported nearly 300 Unity boards and ministries in leadership skill development. She is the 2017 recipient of the Charles Fillmore Award for visionary leadership.

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