The Accountability Triangle: A Management Mindset Shift

What we’re about to share is one of our key lessons learned for the quarter, and something we’re implementing here at When Toys Age. It breaks down accountability into three fundamental elements, and explains why a lot of accountability relationships fail to deliver the desired results. The Accountability Triangle, we call it

Accountability is a key factor in ensuring that each person plays the role they’re supposed to in order for the organization to achieve their strategic goals. The Accountability Triangle is a model we built and follow here at When Toys Age to hold each other accountable to our strategic goals, and align them back to our own personal and professional goals. The triangle is used for professional development and performance management, and consists of three key elements:

  1. A mutual destination: Often times, when defining roles and expectations, managers start with the organization’s goals, and build employee and team performance goals / expectations from there. As managers, we try to develop professional / performance development plans for our team members without aligning back to us. At When Toys Age, we encourage managers to set the traditional mindset of manager-report aside, and to start thinking of our team members as accountability partners rather than responsibilities. This simple shift in mindset will not only improve performance, but also our relationships and our own professional growth. Discuss your personal / professional goals, and mutually decide on a place you BOTH want to be at the end of the quarter or year, and align that with the organization’s strategic goals to achieve Triple Alignment (if you haven’t read about our Triple Alignment Model, go back and read it!). This is your mutual destination. Managers, dare to be vulnerable and ask for help. This leads us to our next point…

  2. Complimentary skill-sets: We know that great salespeople don’t always make the best sales managers. That’s because the role requires a different skill-set. Use this to your advantage. What unique skills do you guys each bring to the table? Complimentary skills are the foundation for a mutually-beneficial relationship because you can divide and execute, and conquer. When Jimmy Kim, founder of Sendlane decided he wanted to build his own company, he made an agreement with his friend, Anik Singal: He would help his Singal’s company get out of debt, and in return, Singal would teach Kim everything he knew about business. After the business was out of debt, Kim would move on.

  3. A mutually-beneficial road map: Align the mutual destination with the organization’s goals, then work backwards to build a professional development plan and key performance indicators. The key here is to keep it simple and build development/performance indicators for both ends of the relationship. Make sure each party benefits each step of the way. As managers, it’s important that rather than just setting expectations, we ask our team members what they want to be held accountable to.

What is your ten year goal? What’s the one thing you can achieve in the next quarter/year that will make everything else redundant? This is my ten year goal, and where I want to be in a year. This is the organization’s goal.

My skill-set is X, your skill-set is Y. If we combine X and Y, we can help the organization achieve [goal]. In doing so, I’ll get you to X and you’ll get me to Y.

[Now make your agreement] We can achieve [the goal] if you do __ to bring me to X, I do __ to bring you to Y.

Accountability comes in many forms—bonuses and compensation plans are great, but there’s nothing more rewarding than a successful accountability relationship with your team and manager.