The Power of Holding Yourself Accountable to a Higher Order

Sometimes in work you can plateau without realising it. You get comfortable or caught in a revolving door of busy-ness that stalls your growth. In these moments you need something quick and powerful that will shift your performance (or those of your team) up to a new level.

I remember early in my career I was working for a big company on a critical program of work. I was delivering some reasonable quality work, although generally at the last minute and mostly without a quality process to back it up. We had some intense times but we always pulled through…but therein lied the problem, I wasn't failing or causing dramas in the team and I wasn't complacent so nothing really warranted my boss raising my performance with me.

Except he did. And it changed me forever.

I remember the moment vividly and the feel of the sting you get when someone you respect gives you the talk you so desperately need.

“You've got heaps of potential and could go along way. So, I'd like to know from your perspective, do you believe this is this the best you can do right now?”

He'd seen that I wasn't taking personal ownership to work outside my comfort zone and push myself to keep getting better. I was stuck in a continuous loop trying the same things week-in, week out. So he called me out. And most importantly he did it by holding me to account against my own higher order.

This is perhaps the single most powerful way of sparking a lift in your own game and of the people in your team, particularly when they're resistant to change or stuck in their growth.

Nicky Sparshott, CEO of T2 Tea outlined that she believes this is one of the most important benefits of a mentor when I hosted her on the The Inner Chief podcast.

The outcome for me was transformative. My boss ignited a passion for excellence in me and I doubled down with better preparation, new skills and became more structured in my approach to key parts of the project.

This is what ‘Ownership Precedes Victory‘ is all about. No more excuses. Just benchmark yourself against the highest possible version of yourself because when you look closely at this high version of yourself, you'll see you've had the courage to work on your weakness and have the discipline that leads you to be great.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was the conversation that jolted me out of a career in which I was never going to reach my potential.

Some methods for applying in the real world:

There are three levels that you can do this; yourself, your team and individuals. Remember, all kinds of feedback like this must be given on the basis of very strong trust and with total respect.


In our own minds it's a common trap to just gloss over your current performance because we are so busy.

But the game changer is when you start asking questions like, “Was my effort and performance what a top CEO would be proud to produce? What am I not doing that they would?”, or “Am I honestly performing at my absolute peak? What corners am I cutting?, or “If I increased my discipline by 10% this week what would that mean?”


When working with your team, “Is our effort what we would expect an award winning team that is changing the industry?”, or “Are we as a team 100% comfortable that our performance is the best we can do?”, or “What conversations would a premiership winning team have that we are avoiding?”

Other individuals

“Greatness is a tough journey full of set-back and honest conversations with ourselves. Do you think this is the best you're capable of? Do you think that perhaps you're cutting some corners that are costing you?”

I always hold this card in my back pocket because I know it has impact every time. It is not one to over-play but when individuals or teams are looking a little stuck in their growth, or are resisting change, play it like a boss.

Stay epic

Greg Layton