Are "They" Hurting Your Business?
Of the multitude of challenges faced by small business owners, lack of accountability among employees is at the top of the list.
There are many reasons for poor accountability. Most folks come on board full of vim and vigor, eager to please and show what they can do, hoping this new job will live up to their expectations.
Then, reality sets in. The daily grind. The constant complaints of disgruntled employees. (By the way, have you ever met a “gruntled” employee?) Too little recognition and appreciation. And, as hard as it may be for business owners to admit, ineffective leadership.
Eventually the enthusiasm of a new situation is replaced by apathy.
Clearly, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Hiring the right people is a good start, but without the right set of influences even a motivated go-getter can turn into a nattering nay-bob.
That’s when the finger-pointing and excuses start.
Here’s a quick quiz. Fill in the blank:
If nobody owns it, nobody will take care of it.
If somebody owns it, somebody will take care of it.
If everybody owns it, _______________ will take care of it.
If you said “everybody” … sorry. The correct answer is “they.”
Think about the number of times you’ve heard something like this:
“They will handle it.”
“They really dropped the ball this time.”
“They” are expected to take care of things. Then, “they” are blamed when things go wrong.
It's time to fire “they” and recruit individual accountability.
Mutual responsibility is a good thing and well worth cultivating, but individual accountability is the key.
We can discuss the meanings of “responsibility” and “accountability” all day long. Other words are similarly interchangeable. For instance, consider “involved” and “committed”: If you eat a ham and egg breakfast, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.
So let’s not get caught up in the terminology and instead focus on the fact that it’s darn hard to manage without individual ownership of the goals and tasks at hand.
With no assigned responsibility for a task, it likely won’t get accomplished. And, if you give the task to more than one person, nobody is accountable and it probably won’t get done, either.
Speaking of individual accountability … as business leaders, we’re accountable for results. We can whine that our employees don’t care and don’t give 100%. But at the end of the day, it’s squarely on the company leader’s shoulders.
Here are some steps for building accountability into your company:
- First, be accountable yourself. Set the example. No excuses.
- Establish overall standards, and let each person know that he or she is personally accountable for following them.
- Establish crystal-clear individual expectations for each person, and make sure they are understood.
- Use metrics to measure results. Set targets for each.
- Once a task or a metric has been assigned to someone, set up a weekly “accountability huddle” to check up on progress.
Like most things in business, this stuff is simple but not easy. Creating a culture of accountability takes work, but it’s the surest path to great results.
Bill Collier is the St. Louisarea coach for The Great Game of Business. He helps businesses improve results by teaching their employees to think and act like owners. He is the author of “How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life” Bill can be reached at 314-221-8558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.