4 bullet-proof steps to fix accountability issues as a leader

“Hey daughter, I noticed you’ve dropped a wet towel on the bed, it can end up smelling musty if it’s left there all day. Did you notice it there too?

She shakes her head and looks confused.

Which I’m taking as ‘OK, it won’t happen again’.

That was Step 1: The Mention from Jonathan Raymond’s 5 step Accountability Dial.

If a management technique works with my teenager then it must be bulletproof.

Maybe the towel thing is a one off. But given she is a teenager and wet towels are like invisible ink I’m guessing it might happen again.

This is how I expect the rest of the conversations will pan out.

So, the wet towel turns up on her bed again. Dammit.

Step 2: The invitation

“Remember our conversation about the wet towel? I’ve noticed this seems to be a bit of a pattern – it was there again. Can we talk about this and look at ways to stop it happening again?”

She says we just need more towels and is fine if they smell like wet dog. But agrees to chuck them on the bathroom floor as a first step.


She makes an effort for two weeks. But it doesn’t last. Of course not.

Step 3: The Boundary

“I’m glad we can talk about the wet towels, and I can see you made some initial efforts. Let’s agree on specific actions to make sure the towels ALWAYS make the journey back to the bathroom. What steps can you commit to address this? And by when?

She agrees to check her room before leaving school and will start tomorrow.

The wet towels have another 2-week vacation from the bed  – and then they’re back (wetter than ever).

Step 4: The Limit

So, I’ve noticed the towels are back. As you know, we’ve talked about this several times, and you’ve explained how you plan to change. However, I haven’t seen the necessary changes in your behaviour.

Any thoughts?

A sheepish look.

I’ve supported you as best I can but it’s your responsibility to change.

A shrug.

Let me know what sanction you think will motivate you most. Restricting your phone, maybe?

A look of panic.


I’m not suggesting your team are like teenagers and Step 4 is going to sound very different for you. But how many times are you noticing old patterns returning – like missed deadlines, meeting actions sliding, and overworking?

A great way to start using the accountability dial is to get really good at the Mention and the Invitation. And maybe you’ll find you only need these 2 steps to start driving the right behaviour in your teams.

(btw No teenagers were harmed in this experiment)