Accountability…Are You Doing It Right?

As I’m sure you know, I spend a lot of my time talking and working with business owners. Two of the most common words that come up in those conversations are:

  • Structure: being more organised, people knowing their job;
  • Accountability: staff don’t take on enough responsibility, they get away with underperforming.

Accountability Is So Important

In this blog, I’d like to talk about accountability. Not because I’m an accountant, although there is a connection.  But because it’s such an important topic.

What I’d like you to consider, as the boss, is how accountability works in:

  • your working relationship with the people who work for you;
  • your own commitment to follow your own decisions and hold yourself accountable.

This blog will be about the first point. I’ll come to you and your accountability in the next blog.

What Is Accountability?

Let’s start with a quick definition of accountability. It’s an adjective and means requiring or expecting a person or organisation to justify their actions or decisions.

So, we often hear government ministers say they are accountable to parliament. They go to parliament to explain and defend their decisions and actions.

In business we don’t work in exactly the same way. As a boss you give jobs to people and expect them to perform the work correctly. You want them to hold themselves accountable – self manage themselves to do the job to the right standard. Equally you may hold your people accountable – but how?

Are You Doing Accountability Right?

It sounds simple doesn’t it? But in my experience accountability in business is often poorly applied.

Imagine the situation. Your sales numbers are down, or customer service is not as good as usual. Is your first reaction to say, “we need to hold people more accountable”?

Do you think those people have intentionally decided to be less responsible? I think the instant call for greater accountability comes across as a threat. Which is not the best way to motivate and improve the business!

Usually there are other issues that need sorting. Here are a few to consider:

Clarity Of Expectations

That means your expectations of your staff as well as their expectations of themselves…clarity is key.

Let’s start with the basic infrastructure of a job:

  • having an organisation chart to explain how staff fit in the business. Who their boss is? I come across too many small businesses where some employees don’t know who their boss is;
  • individuals having job descriptions that they (and you) actually understand. Also including some measures or guides on how you and they know they are doing a good job.
  • having processes to get the work done so that everybody in the business understands, especially where their work fits in;
  • having some measures that let you and them monitor how those processes are operating. Remember, most service and quality failures are caused by poor processes, not the people operating the processes.

Constantly Checking Expectations

Things change. Last year’s structure or job description may not work today. So, keep up-to-date, especially when it comes to expectations. Do this by:

  • having regular 1-2-1’s with your team and also hold team review meetings. A work team or department should be having short meetings daily or at least weekly to progress how well the work is being done and what can be done to improve things.
  • keeping scorecards or dashboards to show progress on outputs and targets, plus process performance.
Accountability And Structure By Default

If you follow these suggestions, you will achieve greater accountability and better structure by default. Your team will be more engaged and motivated. In fact, they will probably take on more responsibility and be ready to be held accountable for their work.

To see how well accountability and structure operate in your business, follow this link to a short online assessment and get an immediate score on how good your structure and accountability is.

In my next blog I’ll talk about the one person who may be least accountable in your business……You!


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