My partner does not respond in a timely manner. Not only does it slow me down, it hurts the productivity of the rest of the organization. He’s a good guy and I know he cares and is committed. I do think that as owners sometimes we’re not accountable enough. Got any suggestions on what to do about this?

Thoughts of the day: Ask people to be accountable. Change their thinking. Be significant. Recognize and reward good behavior. Make sure you’re on the same page.

You have to get people to pay attention. With so many things to do and a myriad of ways to respond, everyone is really busy and communication can get muddled. It’s easy to overlook things, misjudge timing and work on different priorities.

Disrupt the flow and hold people accountable by asking upfront questions:

  • “Are you making me a promise?”
  • “By when, exactly, will you get to that?”
  • “What should I do if I don’t hear back from you?”
  • “What could get in the way of this happening on time?”
  • “Does this have the same priority for you as it does for me?”

It may seem that clarifying questions take too much time and are over-analyzing a situation. However, consider the amount of time spent circling back on things that fall apart.

Be human and be visible. Expect that balls will get dropped from time to time. Nobody is perfect. When things do fall apart, help to pick up the pieces. Get together to discuss status. When things fall apart repeatedly make time for a more in-depth conversation about what’s going on.

Get ahead of the problem by sending out reminders: “Counting on you getting back to me by Tuesday regarding …”, or, “Know you have a lot on your plate. Hoping that my top priority is still near the top of your list. Can we confirm you’ll get to it by (date/time)?”

Ask for help when it’s a good use of your partner’s time and energy. Is this something that’s close to your partner’s wheelhouse? Could someone else deal with it instead?

Make sure you’re coming across as an equal partner, who is invested in joint success. Choose to delegate wisely. Don’t just dump stuff on someone else to get it off your plate.

Be crystal clear about what you expect. Shorten the request. Make it specific. Leave the door open to circle back to you for clarification if there’s a question.

Make things more visible. Make a punch list of open items. Send a follow-up email. Post tasks on a bulletin board.

We all tend to pay more attention when we get stroked for good behavior. Be appreciative when someone does something — even if it was only as expected. A quick email, phone call, or drop-by to say “thank you” can earn you bonus points that you can draw on when you make the next request.

Many times things get overlooked because the other person wasn’t clear about what was expected, or didn’t agree that “it” needed attending to. Ask your partner if he or she’s okay with the request. Explain the priority the request has for you and ask if your partner can give it the same priority.


In summary, start with yourself. Be honest. What can you do to help other people get on the same page, so they can be accountable? What can you do to help others get organized? What more can you do to insure you both stay on the same page, working together toward common goals, deadlines and outcomes?


Looking for a good book?

Fix It: Getting Accountability Right” by Roger Connors and Tom Smith.