August 13, 2018
October 3, 2018


Every Sunday, Carte Blanche exposes laziness, incompetence and shocking failure of service delivery. “We” are all astounded, we shake our heads and we shout that the leaders, specifically the heads of the various departments, should be held accountable. When confronted, these leaders fain surprise, make excuses, blame underlings, act ignorant and promise to “look into things”.

I believe the blame lies squarely on managers, supervisors, directors, CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and any other “O” who is a main “O”. Basically, the people whose job it is to make sure that staff actually do their jobs.

On almost every pre-program questionnaire I send out, one of the issues leaders ask me to address is accountability, ownership and how to treat the job as if it was their own company. My first response is always: “Well, how are YOU holding them accountable?”.Let’s face it, if nobody is checking up on them, if there is no accountability, if there are no consequences why the hell are they going to do their job? Your job, as the person in authority, is to get your staff to answer the bloody phone. Your job is to get your staff to do their jobs. It’s your job to motivate, cajole, coerce, kick, scream, explain, and get them to do their jobs. If you can’t do the job of getting your people to do their jobs, then you are not doing your job.

The real problem is that most managers or people in senior positions hate conflict. They believe that they are there to be liked and to be popular, so they don’t rock the boat. My research has shown that up to 80% of managers will not hold staff accountable for fear of conflict.Did you get that? 80% of the shocking, dismal, pathetic service goes unchecked because managers are too scared to hold people accountable. They just shift the complaints to the 20% who actually do their jobs, thereby putting them under stress and creating a culture of resentment.

There seems to be such a need to be Mr. Popular or Mrs. Friendly which then means that no one is chastised for not doing his or her job. This country is crying out for leadership and it’s not only in government.If Carte Blanche gives you intel about your company that you didn’t already know – YOU ARE FIRED! Hand over the keys, the expense account, the debentures, the shares, the bonuses, and shaded parking; and allow a grown-up to run the company – someone with balls who can make decisions and hold people accountable. It is your job to know if a customer has taken to social media as a final measure, and unless you have already fired someone – you’re fired.

In my past life when I was a boss, I was not very popular. I wasn’t popular because I was the one that held people accountable.




Will you be popular? Not with the slackers and the lazy people. But you will be loved and admired by the customers, the hard workers, your superiors and the shareholders.





    • Let them go if they didn’t reach target as per the terms and conditions of the employment contract.
    • Insisted on discipline, protocol and service delivery, no matter the hour.
    • Show me a miserable staff member and I will show you thier miserable manager, senior manager or CEO. Change your attitude and watch theirs change.
    • Come out from behind your glass office, your shade netted parking area, and start leading by example.
    • Hold people accountable and insist that they keep fighting the good fight. Yes, you will be called unfair, you will be called a hard arse, you will be called a racist, you will be called a misogynist, you will be called unreasonable, and on and on, but that’s part of being a leader. If you want friends, get Facebook. If you want to lead, you are going to have to take the blows.
    • Set up systems that force them to take ownership and lays out consequences for non-performance.
    • Stop making excuses and lead.
    • Stop complaining and lead.
    • Stop pointing fingers and lead.
    • Stop being absent and lead.
    • Stop backing away from conflict and lead.
  • Stop trying to cover your own arse, get involved and lead.
  • Stop hiding behind gatekeepers and lead.
  • Stop hiding in your office and get on the floor, be seen, walk around, sit in on meetings and listen in on phone calls in your call centre and lead.
  • Stop going to lunches and golf days and lead.
  • Stop having meetings, oh my word, STOP HAVING MEETINGS about customer service and walk out the door or answer the phone. The customer is waiting to speak to you, lead. Don’t have meetings about me, talk to me; I’m waiting in the lobby.
  • Stop giving them a pass and lead.
  • Stop making excuses for them and lead.
  • Stop blaming others, show them, teach them, let them do it in front of you.
  • Have the balls to LEAD.

Staff need to know the boundaries, and they thrive on tough love. People need direction.




Do you always have to be a tough nut?  

Yes. You may have a heart of gold but so does a hard-boiled egg. It always amazes me how today, people speak about Steve Jobs as a great visionary leader, yet anybody who actually worked for him would tell you he was the toughest, most uncompromising person. He was a stickler for deadlines, initiative, accountability, and he wielded a big axe. Great leaders lead by example. The staff and the people know where they stand, and they know about all the expectations and standards that are expected of them. They know the consequences if they do not perform. They also know that the leader is fair and firm. Their leader is their motivator who inspires them to go out every day and get results.

People love to be led, people need to be led, people thrive on boundaries and firm leadership. Just like a child. They want a strong, confident, competent, firm, fair, fun, inspiring parent who doesn’t take any nonsense; A parent who is not afraid to correct their behaviour and who expects, no demands, that they deliver “only their best”. People need to be inspired every morning to go out and face the public and the customers. To come back bruised and beaten by the experiences of the harsh economic climate, the tough customers, and the unfair guerrilla tactics of the opposition.  And when they drag themselves, all battle worn, back into the office at the end of the day, they need a strong Platoon Sergeant, Company Commander or General to welcome them back; to patch up their wounds, to inspire them, to believe in them, and to motivate them to go back into the field and face down the enemy again.

They need to see your battle scars and to hear your war stories on how you came out alive and thriving in the end. And no matter how tough it gets, there is always tomorrow and you will be right there, with them, pushing them and stretching them and making them better.

They need a damn leader, not an excuse maker or someone who’s not even there most of the time. Knowing that they have a true leader back at home base that understands them and their challenges, gives them strength. Knowing that their General (manager) is in the trenches with them, makes them not only do the right thing, but it also gives them the confidence to achieve almost anything.

You can’t tell a true leader anything about her company because she runs it ! She is there and sees things as they happen. She has no slackers because she fires them as they slack and she KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON. She has dedicated, hard working performers that will follow her anywhere because she is as kind as she is ruthless.

The best manager I ever worked with was tough, uncompromising, and unmoving on matters of delivery, honour, integrity and doing your job. He was firm but fair.

I dedicate this piece to Captain Smith. Also known as Captain “Fleckie”. We called him “patchy” because he would become so angry when people didn’t do their jobs that the blood rushed from his face leaving only patches of red and white skin. We both feared him and respected him because he held us to a higher standard. He was one of the toughest men I ever worked for but he taught me how to be a true leader and not to shy away from holding people accountable and the conflict it came with. Wherever you are today Sir, I salute you.

Now stop reading this stuff and go out and LEAD.




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  1. John Finlayson says:

    Hi Gavin, I could not agree more about the failure of leaders to hold their staff to account for their performance. If one looks at the circle of improvement in performance the most critical point is the report back stage where the person accounts for his or her performance. This was a principle establish a back in Genesis at the time of the creation of the world. Directions were given to Adam by God regarding his existence and what he could do and what he could not do. When Adam partook of the fruit of the tree for which he was told not to God called him (see Genesis 3 v’s 9 and 10.) He was held accountable and he lost all that he had. There is a principle called Stewardship that very few people really understand and that principle is that when you are given a responsibility to perform any task, what ever it may be there will come a time when you have to account for what you have done with the task. Included in that accounting the principle of stewardship requires that when you have completed the task (job) you will have improved on what you were handed. Only then have you performed up to standard. That principle is born out in the New Testament Matthew 25 v’s 14 to 29.
    It is also important to understand that performance is increased by the frequency of accounting interviews and the time given to perform the task. When ever a task is set there needs to be a time detailed for the accounting of performance in relationship to the task given. The old say that time fill all space is very relevant here. If you give a person a time date of accountability he or she will take all the time to perform the task. If you shorten the time span the task will be performed with in that time frame. I have found that in my leadership roles that it is critical to hold meetings with my subordinates on a regular basis and hold then accountable for the task. If you say you are going to do it then do it. It has worked for me in every sphere where I had a leadership role. Performance increased after every interview.

  2. Tracey Tingle says:

    This is Brilliant – Thank you!!!

  3. Willie says:

    Willie van der Colff

    Outstanding article thanks a lot

  4. Pooban says:

    No words can describe how true this is, we need to share this with ell concerned.

    Thank you.

  5. Ina Van Rensburg says:

    Excellent !

  6. Nellie says:

    This is so true

  7. Nikola says:

    Excellent article – and so true! Thank you.

  8. Johan says:

    Brilliant! Spot on! Thank you

  9. Mike Scarth says:

    That was a good article Gav. Straight shooter language. Gave me some more “GEES” to pump up the team.

  10. tseko says:

    I wish leaders could read this

  11. Shellwin Matowa says:

    Thank you Gave for the great article ?

  12. Lungi says:

    Love! Love! Love! ?? Been holding people to a higher standard and struggling with my feels cause of all the whining this has produced. This is exactly what I needed to keep me on course. I can deal with the whining but I can’t deal with lackadaisical work ??

  13. Mthengiseni says:

    Love your article Gav, We are in this mess as a country because leaders are not held accountable


  14. Estell says:

    Good day

    We went tru a very big disappointment when my daughter where not selected as student leader.

    My daughter is a true leader being the first team netball Captain . Set up sound and lights for all the school evens , Athlete of the year , All Rounder of the year, HonourS for Service and the list go on and on.

    But when it came to student leaders she was not selected because the school have a sustym where the school leaners vote for the Student Leaders.

    It was very disappointing because the student vote for friends , and it was actually a joke because half of them are the party people.

    You can just imagine how my daughter felt ,when your honour blazer with

  15. Michael says:

    …and yet when I try to practice this the response is being cast out,ignored, shouted at, told that I need to learn tact and that we need to learn to work together instead of just fighting and blaming each other. Screw that. You are there to do a job, and you get a salary for that job, if you cant or don’t want to do it, do everyone a favor, quit and give someone who truly wants to work the chance to make a living and make a difference. I honestly and seriously despise incompetence and laziness.

    Other than that the fact is its not just being held accountable. Even when people are found guilty nothing happens, there are no repercussions. Engineers found guilty of corruption are fined but the fine is less than half their salary and they can pay it off over 6 months, how exactly does that discourage that behavior. Doctors found to write prescriptions for patients they never even met are fined R10 000.00. People need to realize punishment is not cruel, its a mechanism for discouraging behavior, if the behavior continues than the punishment was not severe enough.

  16. Janet Masson says:

    Awesome as always. Thanks Gavin

  17. Hans Servas says:

    Great article, but there is a thin line between tough but fair leaders and bullies and narcissists who “lead” by instilling fear!

  18. Basie Lombaard says:

    This is so true and we as Christians must PRAY and ask GOD to place the correct leaders in place in order for us to turn back to him and become a strong nation again who will do the wright thing with HIM as our MAIN LEADER!

  19. Kay Thompson says:

    Absolutely spot on! Especially the bit about leading by example and understanding what your employees actually do!

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