Build cultures of accountability

Carry your own message
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Owning the Message

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Being accountable in an organization includes an awareness and diligent focus on achieving results that benefit the greater whole. Those with high levels of accountability agree to be held responsible by external forces and realize the best way to reach the organization’s aims is to openly communicate and collaborate.

In organizations with accountable employees, it is not unusual to experience mature conversations between employees at all levels about what matters most to the organization. These conversations are enabled by trusting relationships that offer assurance in intentions grounded in collective achievement rather than competition and siloed thinking.


Organizations aiming to build cultures of accountability can teach and support two types of conversations that encourage employees to carry their own messages in the interest of helping the organization experience success.

Stub Your Toe and Impact Message are two conversation frameworks that promote accountability to the organization’s mission. These practices are helpful in building and sustaining high levels of accountability and living out values. A Stub Your Toe conversation is used when an individual observes a behavior that directly violates the organization’s values or standards. An Impact Message occurs when there is a disagreement in a decision or action, or when a decision or action is having a negative impact on the team. Both conversation types can be leader-to-employee, employee-to-leader, or employee-to-employee. 



Kickstart the process by initiating a Stub Your Toe conversation when you encounter the initial instance of behavior that warrants discussion. However, if this first conversation fails to yield the desired changes in behavior, it’s time to transition into an Impact conversation. This distinction is crucial because the intensity and emphasis in each conversation vary depending on the frequency or seriousness of the observed behavior. Understanding when and how to employ these strategies can significantly influence the effectiveness of your communication and problem-solving efforts.

Stub Your Toe Conversation

A Stub Your Toe conversation is used to call attention to, and encourage correction of, a behavior that goes against agreed upon standards of practice or team norms. A Stub Your Toe conversation focuses on the value that is violated.


  • Communicate What You Value About the Individual
  • I value your…
  • Describe the Impact
  • I saw/heard ____ that is inconsistent with our standards.
  • Re-affirm What You Value
  • I wanted to bring this up because I value you.

Example: I really appreciate and value the input that you provide during team meetings. During yesterday’s team meeting, you seemed to struggle with the discussion and during the conversation you managed down another teammate in front of the group. That goes against our accountability standards. I wanted to tell you this because I value you and I know this may not have been your intention.

Impact Message

An Impact Message is used to bring awareness to an action and how that action is impacting the organization’s mission. Impact messages are delivered in a supportive, caring manner, with a focus on the impact, not the individual.


  • Describe the Behavior
  • When you…
  • Focus on the behavior, not the person.
  • Describe the Impact
  • The result is…
  • Use concrete examples.
  • Indicate the Desired Change
  • I need/want/would like…
  • Reference organizational standards.
  • Get a Commitment
  • Do I have your agreement?

Example: I am not sure if you are aware that when you changed our team meeting time, it caused some of our teammates to not be able to attend. This meeting time is preventing some of our other teammates from being able to share their input and they miss valuable information. Is there any way we can adjust the meeting to a different time so more of our team can attend? Thank you for hearing my concerns.


  • Gain perspective: Pause and take time to consider your thoughts and feelings about the situation.
  • Monitor your motives: What is your objective? What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Prepare: Practice ahead of time.
  • Approach the person: Ask him/her if you can talk to them privately.
  • Remain calm and in control: These conversations are not to be used for personal attacks. They are to help focus and redirect to support the success of the organization.

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