For many business owners, poor accountability is the single greatest threat to a company’s future. Lack of accountability creates a company culture of excuses, double standards and half-baked plans, with lackluster performance.
Quite simply, accountability is doing what you said you were going to do within the timeframe you agreed to do it. Unfortunately, it can be scarce in business today. A new American Management Association study cites only 3% of executives are “very successful” at executing their business plans. Imagine, only 3%!
With healthy growth being the lifeblood of business, this requires total individual and team accountability. Business owners can’t afford excuses or multiple people doing the same job. For that reason, a critical requirement is to hire or partner only with people who are accountable – since training them on the job is prohibitively expensive.
Even with the best people, accountability must be nurtured. Here are 8 ways great leaders foster accountability to grow great teams:
1. Walk the talk. You have to be a role model of accountability. Never play the “blame game.” Many executives believe in the misguided notion that they can hold people accountable. This is usually a ploy to control others and hand off responsibility, without being accountable themselves. Remember, you are the model, and what goes around, comes around.
2. Communicate continuously. Make sure your expectations are clear. Remember the “Rule of 7” says people need to hear something 7 times before it sinks in. Eliminate the “I didn’t understand” excuse with using both verbal and written communications.
3. Measure objectively. Goals and objectives must be unchanging and measurable. Accountability must be based on facts, not distorted by opinions, politics and desire for power. Frequently changing expectations impedes accountability.
4. Give control before expecting accountability. If several levels of approvals are needed for a specific decision, no one will feel accountable, and no one can be held accountable. Real delegation is required.
5. Align functional groups with business goals. If key functions aren’t under the control of the proper team, accountability will suffer. For example, if your sales group is measured on profitability, but is required to process leads from outside sources paid by volume, you have a conflict where everyone loses.
6. Provide timely feedback on performance. High performance teams need immediate and useful information on how to improve, as well as regular full reviews, individually and as a group. Help your team look in the mirror and see reality.
7. Conduct fact-based problem solving. Getting to the source and fixing problems should never be a “name and shame” game. Leaders need to provide safe havens where difficult issues can be discussed without assigning blame. The goals should always be to solve problems, not hurl accusations.
8. Provide tools to support accountability. While accountability tools that measure data and results are important, you must also trust the people. Absolute dependence on tools leads to abdication of personal responsibility.
As an EOS Implementer, a core tenant of our work is to create clarity and accountability through implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System. With its 6 key components (see sidebar), the EOS business management system helps business owners and leadership teams become more disciplined and accountable, working cohesively to achieve their vision of creating healthy, growing companies.
Why let poor accountability become an obstacle in the path to achieving better results?
Take action today to change the company’s DNA by creating a new culture of performance!