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The way we hold others accountable matters

Date: July 27, 2021

Unlocking Dietetics is a new monthly series from Alexis Williams, CEO of Dietitians of Canada. It will explore issues important to dietitians and actions taking place across the association. An excerpt will be published each month in Your Weekly Update, with the full article available at


In my first month as the new CEO at Dietitians of Canada, I have been reflecting on the idea of accountability and how we hold each other accountable. I think that a culture of accountability needs to be fostered and it starts with clarity. As Peter Bregman writes in the Harvard Business Review, we need clear expectations, clear capability, clear measurement, clear feedback and clear consequences in order to hold someone accountable and to achieve results.
It reminds me of a time very early in my career as a dietitian working at a family health team. I remember feeling discouraged when a particular client was struggling to meet the goals we had set together. I realized that there was a gap in my client’s food skills that was preventing them from being accountable for their progress. As much as they wanted to act on our shared plan, it turned out they didn’t have the capability to do so. I quickly stepped back and we shifted our plan to focus on the basics, including the skills and resources they needed to be successful. It was an important lesson for me as a young dietitian. Of course, seeing the full picture is a key strength of dietitians. We understand the determinants of health, have strong assessment skills and have a large toolkit to support our clients where they are.

As Bregman writes, if clarity is missing on any of these five factors: expectations, capability, measurement, feedback and consequences, accountability falls through that gap. Coming into the role of CEO with Dietitians of Canada, I was curious to learn more about how the Board of Directors, staff and members were holding each other accountable and supporting each other to accomplish our shared goals.
Over the next few months, I’ll be brought up to speed on the ongoing work of the Association, including meetings with the Board of Directors, Network Leaders, DC Staff as well as external partners and stakeholders. What I’ll be looking for is how the work is being supported, where gaps and opportunities exist and where clarity is needed to ensure accountability.

For example, I’ve met with staff to learn about DC’s commitment to a more diverse and inclusive professional community and I agree that the profession needs to address longstanding and systemic inequities. I will soon be reviewing the responses to DC’s request for proposals (RFP) for a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. This person or group will help DC identify and prioritize the next steps in influencing change in the profession. I will share more details with members as this work progresses.

I have also met with the DC Board of Directors and DC’s leadership team to learn more about the types of measurement and feedback that passes between the two groups through the CEO. Ultimately, I’m accountable to the Board of Directors and they are accountable to you, the membership. They devote time, energy and talent to develop the strategic direction for DC and ensure that the association remains strong, vibrant and relevant to members and the profession. You can read an overview of the progress made in the first year of the 2020-2024 Strategic Plan in the Annual Report, including details on DC’s commitment to a more diverse and inclusive professional community, ensuring our profession is valued and heard and providing career-enhancing opportunities.

With new members joining the Board of Directors, I’m keen to hear their perspectives and I’m certain they look forward to connecting with you to hear your ideas, what’s keeping you up at night and your aspirations for the future.
Joining the Board in 2021 are Adaora Oguine, Julie Cavaliere and Emily Zamora. Continuing Board members are Leslie Beck, Lynn Blackwood, Geneviève Grenier, Amanda Hamel, Timothy Lau and Debra McLennan.

I look forward to sharing ongoing updates with you as I’m brought up to speed. I would be keen to hear your thoughts on accountability as well! You can reach out to me with questions, feedback or ideas at

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