Reverse Accountability

“What did we ever do about…..?”

“Whatever became of……?

“What is the status of that idea we discussed?”

These are the types of questions you expect someone with supervisory responsibilities to ask of those who serve under their leadership. Keeping people accountable is a key component for any organization that strives to make progress. I’ve often heard it said of leaders that they should “inspect what they expect.” You should personally expect that anyone who has leadership over you, whether paid, volunteer, or in a ministry context, will expect you to be accountable to the mission, for instructions given, tasks assigned, as well as for your conduct inside and outside of the organization.

To this point, I have stated what I believe to be “obvious.” However, I have observed in many circumstances through the years that the accountability often flows in one direction (down the chain).  I experienced this in one ministry context years ago with great frustration. How about the accountability of the supervisor or leader to those who follow? No doubt, the person over you is and should be accountable to those who they serve under. Effective leaders are also intentional about being accountable to those who serve under them. To do so, while voluntary, is wise and engenders loyalty, improved morale, and greater effectiveness for the organization in which you serve. What does it look like? Here are two simple ideas for leaders:

  1. Do you have a regular staff meeting or team meeting? Add to the agenda for each gathering an item called “What About?” Explain that this section is not a time to discuss miscellaneous issues. When the team gets to this part of the agenda, they have absolute liberty to ask the supervisor or team leader any question regarding anything that has ever come from his or her lips. Here are some examples “What is the status of…? Whatever happened to…? We discussed doing….., whatever became of that? You said we were going to….When is it going to happen?”
  2. Speak directly to each of your reports, assistants, team members, or employees. Tell them that they have total liberty to ask you at any time about the status or result of anything that they have ever heard you say with no fear of defensiveness, reprisal, or concern for how you feel about being asked. You should do this regularly. I strive to take this approach with those that I lead.


Once a team member or employee does ask, you must respond without being defensive. Be honest. Perhaps you forgot. Maybe you got distracted. Maybe you made a decision but failed to communicate the result. Perhaps you have delayed the action because you have information that they are not aware of. Here is the question: Do you desire loyalty from those serving with you? Good attitudes and less complaining? Less frustrated team members? Greater advancement toward your mission and objectives? Take the initiative in implementing reverse accountability!