Mastering Accountability with Dan Cockerell

Dan Cockerell

“Great accountability always starts with clear expectations.”

Dan Cockerell


Let’s start by getting clear on the difference between accountability and micromanagement.


Micromanagement, in Dan’s opinion, is a leader who is constantly flying really low, telling their team how to do their job and constantly making corrections on how to get there.


From an accountability standpoint a leader trains their team, sets clear expectations and steps back and let each individual do their job. Allowing them to find different paths and different ways to get results.


“Micromanagers don’t train their people well. They don’t set clear expectations and they’re always checking up on them constantly as opposed to trying to teach them to think independently. Once they can think independently, hold them accountable on the results and hold them accountable on the decisions they make,” he says.


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Dan Cockerell is a retired 26-year Walt Disney Company VP who now owns Cockerell Consulting Group with his wife Valerie. He defines accountability as having the courage to be responsible for what you have promised that you are going to say or do and making sure you hold others responsible for what they have said they are going to say or do. Great accountability starts with great expectations and clarity – not being vague about what you want to have. 


What doesn’t work is when leaders try to hold people accountable who haven’t been given the right training and haven’t had the expectation set. That is a recipe for disaster.


In today’s The Culture of Leadership Podcast Dan shares three leadership tools:


The Disney Leadership Accountability Matrix


The four-quadrant matrix is a measurement system designed to hold leaders accountable for everything they do, versus explaining why it is so important to do a great job, get committed and do better. If you can get your teams to want to perform because they understand their mission, they understand how important they are.


Disney recognized this and said, we are still going to expect you to deliver the results, however, we are also going to hold you accountable for how you deliver the results. Certain behaviours are going to become unacceptable and there are certain behaviours that you need to use to get these results.


The Disney Decision Criteria


From day one all Disney employees are trained, from the executives all the way to frontline employees, on how to make decisions.


The four decision criteria are:

  1. Safety
  2. Courtesy
  3. Show
  4. Efficiency


With these clear criteria in place for employees, leaders can hold the team accountable for how they make decisions.


Operating Practises and Priorities Memo


Within the first week or two of working with a new team in an executive or management role, Dan would walk them through his four operating instructions – accessibility, communication, development and follow-through.


These were designed to say “I don’t know you yet and I don’t know the operation yet, but I want to make sure you know how I operate. This is what is important to me.”


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The first role Dan held at Disney was as a Car Park Attendant and he moved through 19 roles before he was appointed the Vice President of the Magic Kingdom. His advice to those who are afraid to give feedback or hold someone accountable is to just think to yourself, not only is it my job but if I don’t do this for them, I am not training them or making them better. And just remember, you don’t do anything perfectly the first time, you have got to practice.


The complete mastering accountability interview can be listened to here, on audio platforms, or watched here, on The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) YouTube channel.


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