Establish Activist Accountability

Establish Activist Accountability

Note: This is part of a series of posts about driving transformation through Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). Here’s my first post. This summarises the M&A challenge and the ten recommendations I have for success.

Some 20 years ago I had the good fortune to study Existentialism as part of my MBA at Macquarie University. Apart from being what I thought was a pretty cool subject at the time, the existentialist view on responsibility continues to resonate to this day. It’s a type of responsibility that’s deep, introspective and uncompromising. As the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Man is fully responsible for his nature and his choices.”

I personally find this tough-minded view on responsibility, in an odd way, to be very life-affirming. There is much to say about this deeply introspective understanding of responsibility, particularly when it comes to dealing with modern-day challenges where the very rules of business are in a constant state of flux.

So in this short post, I’ll take an existential perspective on what accountability means along with some simple guidelines on an activist approach within the team.

Accountability is personal

Accountability is that part of responsibility that cannot be shared. Being accountable is about taking responsibility for our actions rather than letting others decide for us. Being accountable means being honest about the painful realities of life. It is an expression of personal integrity and authenticity. While accountability is deeply personal, and at times painful, it is nonetheless the foundation for success and a prerequisite for happiness.

Accountability is positive

People are happy when they’re in control. That sense of ownership is both powerful and invigorating as it allows a person to do meaningful work. Once people understand their involvement, they feel more in control, driving a sense of purpose in their daily work. It creates a heightened sense of understanding of what’s most important. Accountability is positive because it can lead to feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction as work gets accomplished.

Accountability is liberating

That liberating feeling comes when people work in an environment where accountability is implicitly understood, expected, and practiced. It builds trust with a natural and mutual respect for the dignity of others. This makes collaboration a comfortable exercise with no pressure to hide from mistakes.

Accountability is vulnerability

To be accountable also means to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable means being open and honest, with a readiness to admit mistakes, a preparedness to show emotions, and willingness to show humility. Being vulnerable requires courage because the alternative of simply keeping up with appearances is often much easier.

Three steps to Activist Accountability

With that personal, profound and authentic perspective on what it means to be accountable, there are just three steps for introducing a form of activist accountability within the team.

  1. Make yourself accountable. For others to be made accountable, you need to take a living and breathing on what it means to be accountable yourself. If others are to follow down the accountability path this is something that cannot be faked.
  2. Create the necessary conditions. People in the team need a clear sense of purpose, mandate, and scope. They must have meaning, be empowered and have a clear direction on the things within their span of control. Importantly team members must have the level of authority commensurate with the accountability they’ve been given. Anything less can psychologically crush even the most spirited of people.
  3. Introduce accountability into the rhythm of work. There needs to be an affirmative and active accountability agenda that links what people do to measurable outcomes. As part of a governance framework, with its various meetings, working groups, sprint cycles, and team sessions, acceptance of accountability and commitment to results needs to be actively enforced and vividly demonstrated from all those involved.


In this post, I’ve described accountability more as a feeling, a presence of mind, and as something that’s life-affirming. This is, I think, the best way to understand it. There is no blaming, complaining or excuses; that’s the easy way out. It’s a form of personal expression and a way to stand out from the crowd. Above all, making ourselves actively accountable for our own actions and consequences, is the key to success and personal well-being.

Hopefully, this particular tip has given you some thought. With this, and other posts in the series, I’m chipping in with my own thoughts and experiences so that all of us professionally involved – CEOs, CFOs, Executives, Product Managers, Consultants and Advisors – get that little bit better next time around. My email is below; happy to discuss this and other posts in further detail.

Thank you for reading!





Senior Consultant, BTD Consulting