Many of you follow me on Twitter (thank you!) and know that I post quotes daily about cool culture practices, positivity at work (and at home!), what great bosses do, and similar subjects. I love it when I receive questions – sometimes even push back – about the bold declarations I make.

I received a response to a tweet I posted recently about “great bosses clarify performance AND values expectations” and “hold all staff (and themselves) accountable for BOTH.” This is a mantra for me in my work with senior leaders on helping them craft and maintain their desired corporate cultures.

The question was regarding how a leader, once he/she puts accountability into place for expectations, deals with employee reaction. Those employees may not like having their “feet held to the fire” over those goals. It’s a great question – and needs more description than 140 characters on Twitter allow.

Shoot the Arrow, then Rush Over to Where It Stuck . . .

My best boss, Jerry Nutter, highly valued clear expectations. He gave his staff this example to help us understand why goal setting is so critical. Without clear goals, Jerry said, it’s like shooting an arrow at the side of a barn, then rushing over to where it stuck and painting a bullseye around the arrow. “That’s NOT goal setting,” Jerry said. “That’s simply a celebration of showing up.”

Clear goals set a standard; they create a target. Make your effort, then evaluate how well you performed. Did you hit the bullseye? (Did you hit the target, even?) Assess then refine your effort to hit the bullseye on the next pass.

Over my consulting career I have found that most clients create goals for leaders, managers, supervisors, and sales staff. Clear, specific goals and targets are less likely for frontline staff. Without clear goals for ALL staff, accountability problems are the logical consequence.

All Good Performance Starts With Clear Goals

The above is the mantra of our chief spiritual officer, Ken Blanchard. Ken has been teaching leaders (for over 40 years) this core truth – set clear goals so people know what is expected of them. Then the leader’s role and responsibility is to provide direction and support, remove hurdles, and celebrate progress and accomplishment based on traction towards the declared goal.

Blanchard’s success is built upon our ability to help clients create goal (and values) clarity for their staff – then to hold everyone accountable for those standards.

Leaders must be fair and just with accountability practices – everyone must be held to their defined standards for performance and citizenship. Treating people inequitably erodes trust and respect between leaders and followers.

If leaders and employees do not deliver on promises made to customers and stakeholders, their business experiences another logical consequence – it stops generating profits. Most companies can’t exist for long in the vacuum of losing money; without an influx of capital and accountability, those companies close.

The only way to generate success – for employees, customers, and stakeholders – over time, leaders must maintain a culture of accountability.

How do you and/or your leaders hold staff accountable for expectations? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

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S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: Good Comes First (2021) and The Culture Engine (2014).
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Reader Interactions


  1. Michael Clark says

    Thanks Chris! May I add to the strategic and operational importance of goal setting + accountability, a tactical importance as well. IE Task assignment. We’re having enormous success using the QQTR model: Quality, Quantity, Timing and Resources. It is the manager’s accountability to be clear on all the “what by when” of each assignment. Add to this setting context and prioritization (two additional managerial accountabilities) and you have perfect tactical goal setting and the mechanical foundation of accountability.

    • S. Chris Edmonds says

      Thanks for sharing the QQTR model – I’m not familiar with that! I also appreciate you hanging in while I figured out the “comments” issues my site is having!



    • S. Chris Edmonds says

      Accountability is the state of being answerable to someone for something promised.

      Firing is the ultimate final step in a series of discussions to address an employee not meeting their commitments or their goals.

      The first step is addressing the gap – here’s what is expected, here’s what we’re seeing. Ask, “Why is this happening? How can we get you back on track?”


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