A Manager’s Guide to Cultivate Accountability and Effective Feedback at any Startup

It’s nearly impossible to build a high-performing team when there’s a lack of accountability at your startup.

No one takes responsibility to make hard decisions, or ownership when results are below expectation or steps up when a problem arises.

Accountability is about taking initiative and recognizing individuals have the power to fix problems and cause them, too.

To foster a culture of accountability at your startup, you first need effective feedback.

True accountability cannot exist without feedback—which is a weak area in most organizations.

Now, before we dive deep into the conversation around feedback and accountability, we need to remember the first level to build a unicorn team is psychological safety — people need to not be afraid to share their opinions or fear the consequences of their actions.

We will cover how psychological safety plays a role later on.

In this blog, we’ll cover the primary concepts of feedback, from mindset to moods and personality styles.

Make sure to bookmark this page because it will serve you as a guide throughout your management journey to achieve unicorn status.

Primary Concepts

The presence of a feedback culture is important for both your organization and your employees.

For the company, it cultivates fairness, transparency, and enhances the capabilities to evolve and overcome challenges.

Effective feedback allows employees to grow both personally and professionally, improve their skills, and tackle their weaknesses.

Before we get into the feedback framework, here are the primary concepts you need to keep in consideration:

Growth Mindset 🌱

The first step to providing proper feedback, arguably, should be mindset assessment.

In a previous blog post, we cover how a growth mindset can positively impact your startup.

Our mindset shapes whether we believe we can learn, change, grow… or not.

Before cultivating a culture of feedback at work, you need to identify and understand your own mindset and that of your team members.

Are you/they showcasing a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset?

Either one dictates your relationship with feedback and effort.

👉 A growth mindset motivates employees to stretch their capabilities and push themselves to new limits. This positively impacts how they think and contribute to your business.

Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.

These people embrace feedback.

👉 A fixed mindset, on the other hand, happens when individuals feel that their abilities can't be improved upon.

This can be dangerous as it will prevent important skill development and growth which can sabotage employee development in the future.

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates a barrier for constructive feedback.

As a manager, being self-aware of your own mindset and the mindset of your employees will speak volumes about if your startup moves forward or gets fixed in its current state.

How do you view feedback?

Primal Leadership 🏆

The second step is to understand the impact of your own moods in leadership.

Primal leadership states managers act as emotional guides to their employees. In other words, a leader’s mood plays a key role in the team’s dynamic.


Because emotions are contagious.

Great leaders move us — they ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. Reality is its much more primal than strategy, vision, or ideas. Great leadership works through emotions.

And a team’s success depends on HOW they do it.

Even if leaders get everything right from strategy to vision, if leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.

Leader’s moods are contagious because, as our research has shown:

  • Leaders typically talked more than anyone else in meetings.
  • What they said was listened to more carefully.
  • Usually, they are the first to speak out on a subject.
  • Remarks are most often referred to what the leader said than to anyone else’s comments.

Managing one’s inner life is not easy, of course. For many of us, it’s our most difficult challenge. And accurately gauging how one’s emotions affect others can be just as difficult.

That’s not to say that leaders can’t have a bad day or week: Life happens.

And our research doesn’t suggest that good moods have to be high-pitched or nonstop—optimistic, sincere, and realistic will do.

But there is no escaping the conclusion that a leader must first attend to the impact of their mood and behaviours before moving on to their wide array of other critical responsibilities.

This is fundamental to providing a psychologically safe environment to give feedback to your team members.

A culture of psychological safety is the first and most crucial step to creating a high-performing team in a unicorn startup because it leads to trust.

A cranky and ruthless boss creates a toxic organization filled with negative underachievers who ignore opportunities.

An inspirational, inclusive leader spawns other leaders for whom any challenge is surmountable.

This doesn’t mean we just need a leader who is nice or kind ….  It actually means we need a leader who is aware, who is understanding, who can empathize.

This represents a deeper analysis that a leader’s emotional intelligence creates a certain culture or work environment.

Understanding the powerful role of emotions in the workplace sets the best leaders apart from the rest — better business results and retention of talent, and also higher morale, motivation and commitment.

DISC — Customize your Feedback 🧬

If you recall our DISC personality types blog, we explain how each person is unique.

Understanding each style helps you know how to approach the situation (giving feedback) in a manner that effectively engages the individual and speaks to who they are as a person.

If you’ve never read this blog yet, we highly recommend you do.

5 Step Feedback Framework

Proving feedback it's hard. It's even more difficult to give constructive feedback. As managers, we get worried it may be misinterpreted or taken in the wrong way. But it's an important part for growth and learning.

Luckily, there's an easy 5-step framework you can use at your startup to give constructive feedback.

Ask for permission

This gives the receiver a chance to prepare themselves and feels supported versus being blindsided.

Ask for their perspective on the subject, issues, challenges

We rarely have the full picture, giving them a chance to speak about their perspective will open conversation, give you more information, and you might even realize they already know and understand the issue at hand.

Validate their feelings

For us to be willing to accept feedback from another, we must first feel seen. We must feel understood, or else we’ll continue to push our point of view. Validating feelings, doesn’t mean telling them what they did was right, it is understanding the intensity of the emotion they feel.

Provide your truth

This is your chance to provide your thoughts, opinion and feedback to the person.  Identify the type of Gap (Knowledge, Motivation, Design, Management)

Create a collective action plan

Outline some key goals and objectives to action the feedback and their personal reflection, in how you can support them, and what they can do to grow.

Creating Peer-to-Peer Accountability

Often managers who begin coaching, do not have much more than the carrot or the stick method for when it comes to holding team members accountable.

Yet, a high performing team requires members who get work done effectively and efficiently.

So, how does a manager create that environment of peer-to-peer accountability? Through  constant short bursts of feedback.

Managers shy away from accountability conversations because of the tension, and it’s likely that they’ve let the tension build up over time.

Constant short bursts of feedback, break the tension down to bite-size chunks, and create a constant conversation about performance management.

Consistent check-ins are key for keeping team members accountable. Continuous feedback helps team members understand what is expected of them and gives them the opportunity to live up to that expectation.

Feedback can also be more effective when given as "descriptive feedback," meaning that you describe behaviors without assigning motives or judgments to those behaviors. For example, saying "You seem to only call on John, Peter, and George when you ask for input from the team" is easier to hear than, "I think you play favorites and listen only to people you like."

The latter, where you assign motives to the person is called "evaluative feedback" and is not as helpful as it puts the person on the defensive regarding motives or intentions rather than focusing on the behavior that needs to change.

And don't forget that feedback shouldn't always been seen as a negative thing. ❌

Feedback should also be positive people need to hear what they do well just as much as what they need to improve. Reinforcing positive behavior is just as important as correcting negative behavior.

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