A Simple Habit for Greater Employee Accountability at Your Company

Two people eating breakfast

The stats on employees and their workplaces are staggering:

  • 87% of employees are not engaged at work
  • 39% of employees have no idea what their company’s goals and objectives are
  • 47% don’t know the state of their company’s performance
  • 44% don’t understand how their role helps the company meet its goals

And the result is a huge gap of accountability throughout the organization. How can we defy the statistics and effectively raise the level of accountability?

Have a conversation—a quarterly conversation. In EOS we call this the 5-5-5. Once per quarter, starting with the leadership team, everyone who manages people schedules a quarterly one-on-one conversation with his/her direct reports. It’s best to do this offsite over coffee, breakfast, or lunch—and more importantly, to be free of distractions from the office.

What’s the 5-5-5?

The 5-5-5 is a way to stay connected and on the same page with your direct reports. By having this touchpoint once per quarter, it lets you make minor course corrections on the way towards completing quarterly priorities. The 5-5-5 is a space to make sure you’re both on the same page with essential roles and responsibilities, and to make sure your direct report still genuinely wants the position as it’s defined. This is your opportunity as a manager to make sure they’re still happy and meeting your expectations.

The 5-5-5 should be an informal conversation. It ISN’T a formal, documented performance review.

How to Do the 5-5-5 Quarterly Conversation

Start off with checking in personally and professionally. Connect with them—this is a person-to-person connection, not just a meeting to check off your list. Then review the following items:

Core values

Walk through each of your company’s 3-7 core values with them. Consider your direct report’s actions over the last 90 days. Do any stand out? Give them an example or two where they went above and beyond in any core value.

Did you see them behave in a way that was contrary to a core value? Bring it to their attention and seek to understand what happened. It can be uncomfortable to go there, but if you don’t, you’ll be left to make assumptions. And worse yet, they may not even realize that something was wrong. Simply ask “help me understand—this is what I thought I saw. Can you give me some insight to what happened?”

Roles and responsibilities

Walk through the 3-5 essential roles and responsibilities that you expect them to obsess about on a day-to-day basis. Have them explain in their own words how they’re doing with each of them. Give feedback on how you see it. Compliment them in the areas where they’re excelling, and address any gaps that you see.


These are their 90-day priorities. Setting 90-day priorities for your direct reports helps them to focus on the most important use of their time. This is your opportunity to really check in with them to see how their progress is coming along. Is it truly on track or not? What help do they need from you? Are you both still clear on what the end result needs to look like? These are all questions that help to drive towards being on the same page and ensure that expectations are clear both ways.

For each of those three areas of conversation, seek to understand the following four questions.

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What could you do better to correct it?
  • What can I do better?

The 5-5-5 quarterly conversation will give you a meaningful, real 1-on-1 time with each of your direct reports and will give you the opportunity to make course corrections along the way. You’ll both stay firmly on the same page, raising the level of accountability of your team.

Schedule your quarterly conversation with your direct reports now. After doing this for a few quarters with your people, teach them how to do it with their direct reports.

This post originally appeared on the GPS for Small Business blog on October 19, 2016.

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