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Bridging the Gap


Wed May 24 2023

Bridging the Gap

Accountability and intention can be the difference between what you aim for and what you achieve.

Joseph Grenny has spent 35 years doing the research, leading him to a single conclusion: the health of a relationship, team, or organization is a function of the average lag time between when we see a problem and when we say it.


The longer the lag time is, the bigger the issues become. That lag time, Grenny says, is the opportunity to broach gaps. And the gap is the difference between what you expected and what actually happened. In the workplace, it’s the difference between expected performance and actual performance.

But your choices aren’t whether or not to talk about those gaps, Grenny explains.

“Your options are to talk it out or act it out,” he says. If you don’t discuss problems, they will crop back up and reflect in how you behave, which can negatively impact your relationships.

In other words, leaders need to build a culture of accountability and autonomy to create and maintain a healthy work environment. Grenny, the co-founder of learning and organization development firm Crucial Learning, told his audience Tuesday afternoon at ATD23 that organizations must do two things very well: execute their intentions and innovate for tomorrow.

After sharing four organizations that have each demonstrated those traits, Grenny discussed what separates those organizations from those that don’t prioritize accountability.


“At the end of the day, your organization is founded on one of two simple principles,” Grenny says. “Truth or power. Most organizations are about power. It takes enormous intentional effort to develop a culture that’s based on truth.”

Grenny concluded by urging the audience to take some of his fundamental principles back to their organizations: advertising accountability during onboarding, ritualizing it with frequent social processes, demanding it by developing practices, and cueing it by reinforcing the expectation of accountability.

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