One Idea Group Session from The Six Conversations of a Brilliant Manager from Alan J. Sears


Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash



This resource will help you facilitate a short group session to learn from the One Idea Summary on How To Have An Accountability Conversation.


  • Be able to list and describe the four steps involved in having an accountability conversation.
  • Be able to demonstrate how to have an accountability conversation.


Send a copy of the One Idea Summary on How To Have An Accountability Conversation (previous post) to the participants one week before the session. They are to read it before the session and bring it with them.


Introduce the session

Introduce the session by sharing the session objectives with them.

 Review the one idea summary

Tell them that:

  • You had the opportunity to read the One Idea Summary about four steps you can use to have an accountability conversation.
  • An accountability conversation allows you to hold someone accountable for something they need to do. It clarifies what needs to be done, by who and by what time.
  • We will start by reviewing and summarising the lessons in the One Idea Summary.

For them to review the one idea summary:

  • Split them into pairs and give each pair flipchart paper and pens.
  • Tell each pair to review what they read about the four steps involved in having an accountability conversation and write down a summary of their understanding on the flip chart paper.
  • Give them 10-minutes.

After 10-minutes stop them. Allow each pair to feedback their summary. Make sure they capture all four steps. If necessary (if they don’t remember all of them) use the One Idea Summary to remind them of the four steps.

Next share an example of an accountability conversation with them.

 Example of an accountability conversation

Tell them that you are going to share with them an example of an accountability conversation just to show them one way it may work in reality. Read out the script below and try to change your voice slightly for the three characters involved (you may choose to print the script out or send it to them through email or WhatsApp for you all to read together).

The conversation involves three people, Becky, the manager and two team members, Astra and Dean.

 Becky: Good morning, I want to talk about the gender report you are due to submit by the end of this month. I’m a bit concerned that I have not heard anything about the report and I just want to know how it is going. Preferably show me what you’ve done so far (first accountability question – where are we now?).

Astra: I’m waiting for the data analysis from Dean, then I can start writing the report.

Dean: We were supposed to have a meeting to talk about the data analysis, but it’s been cancelled three times.

Becky: So, you’ve not done anything?

Astra: We have done something. We’ve started working on it.

Becky: Show me what you’ve done so far.

Dean: We just had a discussion, but we haven’t put anything on paper.

Becky: Can we agree that you’ve not done anything?

Astra and Dean (say together): Yes.

Becky: How did we get here? Why are you in this position with the report? I don’t want to apportion blame, but I do want to know why the situation is the way it currently is so we can start thinking about how best to deal with it (second accountability question – How did we get here?).

Astra: As Dean said we planned three meetings when we should have discussed what needs to happen and they were cancelled, which is why we have not been able to do any serious work.

Becky: I won’t explore why the meetings were cancelled but one thing I do want you to know is that the deadline for the report can’t be moved. We need to act now. What do you both need to do to ensure I get that report by the end of the month (third accountability question related to – what can we do)?

Dean: We need to meet weekly before the deadline to plan and agree what each of us must do and check that we are doing it. There are three weeks to the deadline, which leaves us with three meetings.

Astra: We will look at the data in the first week to get it analysed and write the report over the following two weeks.

Becky: Let me be sure about what you plan to do. You will have three meetings between now and the deadline. One meeting a week. First you will discuss the data, get it analysed and then write the report. Is that correct?

Astra: Yes, it is.

Becky: Invite me to the first meeting and every Friday I want an update.

Dean: Okay we will do that.

Becky: To sum up let’s clarify what you are going to do to finish the report. Can you tell me what we’ve discussed please?

Dean: We are going to have three meetings to discuss how we will complete the report and then get it done. We will invite you to the first meeting. Also, we will give you an update every Friday about where we are with the report till we finish it.

Becky: Good, and I will make sure I attend that first meeting. We’ve also agreed that the deadline cannot be changed. Please can you type out the actions we agreed and get it to me by noon.

Astra: Yes.

Becky: Thank you.

After reading it, ask for their own views of the example and any lessons or tips they got from it.

Listen to their answers without making any comments.

After listening to them tell them that next they will have the opportunity to practice and that most of this practice will be down to them as they will have to come up with topics to have an accountability conversation on.

 Now it’s your turn to practice

To set up the practice exercise:

  • Tell them to go back into the pairs that did the activity to review the One Idea Summary earlier.
  • Tell each person to write down one task they need to complete or action they need to take that they have not yet taken accountability for.
  • The task or action can be work-related or in their personal life.
  • Make sure each person has written down one task or action they are open to discussing.
  • Now tell them to alternately have an accountability conversation with each other. The accountability conversation should identify clearly:
    • The issue you are concerned about and its current status (where are we now with?).
    • Why are you still here with the issue (how did we get here)?
    • What are you going to do about it (What can you do)?
    • When are you going to do it and who else might be helping you (who’s doing what and by when)?
  • Give them 10-minutes. Each person in the pair should spend 5-minutes for their own conversation.

After the 10-minutes is up, stop them. Ask for feedback from the group using these questions. Let people answer voluntarily. Allow 10 to 15-minutes for the feedback.

  • How did the conversations go?
  • Did you feel held accountable?
  • What did each of you learn from having the conversations?
  • What might you do differently to improve the conversations next time?
  • How will you use this in real life?

 After listening to their feedback, appreciate them for doing the exercise and giving feedback. Move on to review and close the session.


To review the session tell them that:

  • During this session we discussed four steps you can take to have an accountability conversation.
  • You had the opportunity to review the four steps.
  • You saw an example of the four steps in action.
  • You spent some time practising the four steps
  • Now that you’ve explored the four steps, what remains is for you to find opportunities to practice using them.

After telling them that, close the session.

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