Idea Learning Group

"leadership-development" Posts

Stories of informal leaders sought

Are you or someone you know a leader but not in a formal leadership role? IdeaLearning Group is collecting stories of informal leaders to include in a book. We would love to hear from you! Email

Accountability: Standing Under the Arches We Build

Accountability is a hot topic in leadership and business development training today. It’s also a somewhat poorly misunderstood concept. People sometimes confuse “accountability” with “responsibility,” or associate accountability with shouldering the blame when something goes wrong. It’s actually much broader than these simple explanations. What really rings true to me about the ancient Roman tradition is that accountability is not just limited to personal liability—it’s so much bigger than that. Being accountable means standing behind—or under!–our products, our teams, and our commitment to overall excellence.

Accountability at work means taking initiative for projects, recognizing signals indicating something’s going wrong, and not only owning up to but also taking action when failure occurs. Check our previous blog post for more on our thoughts about the role of accountability in teamwork.

One of my favorite metaphors for defining accountability is described by former AT&T Chairman C. Michael Armstrong: “The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch.”


In his book Closing the Execution Gap: How Great Leaders and Their Companies Get Results, Richard Lepsinger suggests that a lack of accountability in the workplace causes employees to view their organizational leaders as ineffective and creates a culture of blame. He also describes that a lack of productivity is common in cultures where people aren’t held accountable for their actions.

Inspired by Lepsinger’s perspective on accountability, here a checklist for building a culture of accountability at work:

  • Clarify expectations and check for understanding among everyone involved in a project.
  • Ensure employees follow through on their commitments.
  • Make sure everyone is aware of and agrees to a timetable.
  • Build in checkpoints to check progress along the way.
  • Build in time to correct errors as needed before the deadline.
  • When problems do occur, coach employees to ask themselves these questions: What can I do now to get on track? How can I prevent this problem from happening again? What could I have done to avoid the problem?

And don’t forget to ask yourself and your teams this simple but profound question: Would you stand under the arches you build?

IdeaLearning Group Case Study: St. Mary Medical Center – Leadership Development Training

IdeaLearning Group is proud to have produced three very successful training programs for St. Mary Medical Center. Part of the St. Joseph Health System, St. Mary serves a diverse population in the High Desert region of California. It’s a caring, warm culture with expert staff dedicated to providing compassionate care using state-of-the-art equipment.

Our first project involved 120 senior-level staff members for an in-house leadership development program. We were invited to speak during the general session on the topic of intrinsic motivation. Our goal was to explore techniques for decision-making and to help staff identify new development opportunities. Session evaluations show consistently high ratings for the program. Participants indicated that they loved the opportunity to try hands-on activities, and they also reported taking ideas they learned from the session back to share with other department members.

For our second project, we developed a series of four breakout sessions on the topic of reverse brainstorming. The three-hour session offered plenty of opportunities for participants to work together in a safe training environment before implementing what they learned on the job. Participants reported high ratings for the session and described how they were able to use the techniques they learned during interactions with customers in their jobs after the training.

Our most recent project was inspired by Peter Block’sConnection Before Content” model. The session followed a breakout format and focused on the importance of building small-group connections before collectively taking action in a community. Because of the custom nature of the content, St. Mary produced the toolkit while we worked on structuring the session content around the toolkit.

We really enjoyed the challenge of leading and developing a healthcare training program using our versatile instructional design and facilitation expertise. Working with excellent subject matter experts, we were able to produce a meaningful, dynamic learning experience for staff members and their teams to use for years to come.

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CONNECT 503.208.3256
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Portland, OR 97210

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