Crucial Skills Logo The Official VitalSmarts Blog

What is the Difference Between Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability?

Dear Scott,

What is the difference between a crucial conversation and a crucial accountability conversation? I believe all accountability conversations are crucial, but are all crucial conversations about accountability?

Confused Manager

Dear Confused Manager,

Many have wondered about the difference between Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability. It can often be difficult to know where one set of skills ends and the other begins. Crucial Conversations is about establishing open dialogue. The skills are designed to create safety, get different perspectives and ideas into the conversation, and build Mutual Purpose. The skills help you keep dialogue flowing in the face of disagreement, for improved relationships and results.

The Crucial Accountability skills build on the Crucial Conversations skills to resolve problems of poor performance, broken promises, and bad behavior. In other words, they help people speak up when others fail to meet expectations and help them overcome barriers in motivation and ability to meet those expectations. The course combines Crucial Conversations skills with the Six Sources of Influence™ for lessons in effective accountability.

For organizations to build cultures of dialogue and accountability, they must realize this: the health of any organization is reflected by the lag between identifying and discussing problems. In weak organizations, no one is held accountable. In mediocre organizations, accountability is fostered by managers. In great organizations, everyone holds each other accountable.

Holding people accountable is about more than just making sure people do what they say they are going to do. It’s about more than holding people to the fire. It’s also about helping others live up to their potential.

The other day, I was watching the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Fred Rogers. The storyline follows journalist Lloyd Vogel and his relationship with Mr. Rogers. Lloyd is writing a magazine piece on heroes, including Mr. Rogers. Lloyd has also recently and reluctantly reconnected with his estranged father, who is dying from a cardiac disease. In a rather emotional scene involving father and son, Mr. Rogers tells the Vogels, “Anything mentionable is manageable.”

That powerful quote perfectly describes the correlation between Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability. Crucial Conversations skills make a challenging interpersonal situation “mentionable.” Crucial Accountability skills make it “manageable.”

Managing expectations and performance problems begins with our ability to discuss them. Only after we discuss them can we move toward resolving them.

If Crucial Conversations gives us skills to strengthen relationships, Crucial Accountably gives us skills to help our peers, colleagues, and loved ones achieve excellence. Dialogue and accountability together are the bedrock of social health.

The question isn’t “How are Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability different?” The question is “How are Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability complementary?”

Best Wishes,

Scott Robley

“I’ll make you laugh. I’ll make you think. I’ll make it real. But not necessarily in that order.” Scott Robley is a speaker, coach, and master trainer at VitalSmarts. With more than twenty years of experience in education, training, and public speaking, Scott brings to the table energy, fun, and professionalism. He is a master storyteller and committed to changing the world by changing behavior.

The ideas expressed in this article are based on the skills and principles taught in Crucial Conversations. Learn more about Crucial Conversations

Man training

What's Your Style Under Stress?

Discover your dialogue strengths and weaknesses with this short assessment.

Take Assessment >

Stack of books

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to the newsletter and get our best insights and tips every Wednesday.

Subscribe >

Woman training

Get Answers to Tough Questions

From stubborn habits to difficult people to monumental challenges, we can help.

Ask a Question >

One thought on “What is the Difference Between Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.