Doug Fleener's

The Day Makes the Year


The Five Levels of Accountability

May 15, 2024

Accountability gets a bad rap—an unfair reputation if you will. Many associate the term with harshness or undue strictness, but this view is far from accurate.

Accountability is about helping people meet expectations and achieve success. It's a supportive tool, not a punitive measure. This is why enhancing accountability is one of the quickest ways leaders can improve sales and the customer experience.

Look at this graphic from a new and innovative coaching program I am about to launch.


As you can see, a gap often exists between a staff or individual’s current performance and expectations. This might be in how customers are engaged, offered products, suggested additional items, complete the sale, customer follow-up, etc.

When you move forward and close that gap, additional sales are created. Bam!

You can also consider what can happen if you raise expectations and challenge people to try new and different things to improve performance and results.

In both cases, accountability raises performance to the level of expectation, resulting in higher performance and results.

With that said, all leaders must understand the five levels of accountability.

Level 1—Engagement: This first level of accountability is why morning huddles, fun challenges, staff contests, recognizing and encouraging employees, and managers observing and coaching employees with customers are so important.

When expectations are set and followed through on, accountability is set, and employee performance follows. Most employees need the leader to maximize engagement to be successful.

Level 2—Capability: Assess a person’s current skills, knowledge, and ability to meet expectations. Provide additional coaching or support to ensure they have the capabilities required for success.

I often find people don’t have the capability because they haven’t done it. They’ve been trained and told to do it, but they don’t have a lot of practice in doing so.

Level 3—Push Through: Collaborate with the employee to identify any obstacles holding them back from achieving the expectation. Often, this is a self-limiting belief. I frequently see staff who are fearful of being too pushy with customers. They need to push through to see that they add value to the customer’s experience and purchase.

Leaders must make clear that the expectations are not optional. Most employees will be successful after this level.

Level 4—Focused Coaching: At this point, you’re helping the employee avoid getting to a place of consequence. This accountability usually requires a written daily plan and activity by the employee to improve and execute what is expected of them.

You must ensure the employee can and will do what is expected. If not, it’s unfair to the employee, the rest of the staff, and the customer.

Level 5 —Consequences: For staff members who fail to meet expectations despite the support provided, you have no choice but to implement progressive consequences that could result in demotion and disciplinary action, up to and including potential termination.

Remember, your role is to help people meet expectations and achieve success. If they can’t do that, then you need to replace them. 

By understanding and effectively implementing these Five Levels of Accountability, frontline leaders can cultivate an engaged, capable, and high-performing team, ultimately driving higher results and an exceptional customer experience.

So let me ask three questions:

  1. How many times do you think the word "accountability" was used in the article? (10, including the subject line. That’s how important accountability is to your results and staff success!)
  2. Did you see the level was Push Through and not Pushover? That first one keeps the second one from happening.  
  3. How well are you implementing the Five Levels of Accountability? What are two or three things you can do better to create higher accountability and results in your store?