A phrase heard all too often in business when the expected results aren’t being delivered is ‘my people aren’t accountable’.

What usually happens next is that performance metrics are rolled out to ensure individuals are held to account for their role in delivering on a strategy.

But if the results still don’t improve, then what? The reality is that what drives accountability is often misunderstood.

At AlixPartners, we’ve developed a four-stage model for transformative leadership that starts with creating the direction for your organization. The second stage is to build engagement by ensuring your people believe in, and want to be a part of the direction you have created.

Accountability falls into the third stage – execution, while the final stage is about maintaining focus and ensuring your team is continually motivated to deliver.

But the reason the model works – and specifically why it works in relation to accountability – is because it doesn’t follow a linear path. Instead, when things aren’t going as expected, it prompts leaders to take a step back and assess whether they’re still heading in the right direction.

What does this mean in practice? Well let’s go back to that familiar refrain we mentioned in our opening sentence – ‘my people aren’t accountable’. Often the conversation turns to ‘We need to HOLD them accountable’, by setting up punitive measures.

If you’re not getting the level of accountability you expect, maybe the issue isn’t that your people aren’t working hard enough or smart enough. Maybe it’s that you don’t have the talent in your organization, or perhaps people don’t understand or aligned to how their role fits into the overall strategy, or they’re not clear what their priorities should be?

In which case you may need to go back to the first stage of our model. Have you created a clear direction for your company? Have you been realistic about whether you have the right capabilities and opportunities to deliver on your strategy?

Maybe the issue isn’t a lack of talent, or a lack of awareness among your people about what’s expected of them. Maybe they just don’t want it (desirability) or they don’t believe it (believability). Or maybe, the issue is nothing to do with your people - perhaps the strategy they’ve been asked to execute is fundamentally flawed.

We created our model to help organizations understand what we mean by transformative leadership, but also to provide a checklist that allows companies to identify when things are going wrong, and why. Better still, if things are going well – if the strategy is on track and the results are meeting or exceeding expectations – our model can help organizations to better understand why, and bottle some of that magic.