Many growing businesses are successful because everyone who works there feels accountable for what they do. This starts with you. When business owners hold employees accountable, execution, productivity and follow-through all increase.
But fostering an atmosphere of accountability can be tricky. Three simple techniques can help: 1) clarifying actions and expectations, 2) agreeing on due dates for deliverables, and 3) establishing checkpoints along the way. Perhaps the worst impact of not holding others accountable is that it reflects poorly on you, says Rick Lepsinger, president of OnPoint Consulting. “It creates the perception that you don’t treat people fairly and equitably.”
Business owners and entrepreneurs often make the same mistakes when it comes to holding people accountable. Here are some of the missteps that can foster a “blame game” mentality at your business:
Misstep #1 – “I made my expectations clear. (I think!)” One way business owners fail to hold others accountable is by not setting clear expectations. Either you haven’t clarified what you want (what “good” looks like to you), or when you want it. Without this base, don’t be surprised when you encounter more than one point of view or when conversations turn into arguments. “Everything you ask of your employees can be either measured or known,” says Lepsinger.
Misstep #2 –“This too shall pass.” The “wait and hope” syndrome assumes that poor performance will improve on its own over time. “They’ll learn,” we say in the (often futile) hope that we’ll never actually need to have a conversation about meeting commitments and delivering results. Or, we assume that people know what they should be doing, and that this was not typical. But giving people “the benefit of the doubt” over and over doesn’t work.
Misstep #3 – “They know how I feel.” You just responded in your “I’m dissatisfied” voice and put on your “I’m very disappointed” face. That should do it, right? Well, maybe not, says Lepsinger. Most of us like to assume that sending subtle signals has not only made our dissatisfaction known, but clarified what needs to happen. Unfortunately, it seldom works that way. The better way is a direct discussion of the problem and the need to take responsibility.
Misstep #4 – “It Will Turn into an Argument.” Even if the other person is not difficult to work with, it’s a safe bet that he or she sees things differently. Many business owners are certain that “take responsibility” conversations will turn into arguments, says Lepsinger. But while it may be easier in the short term to let it go, in the long run you may find that the situation has snowballed into a more difficult problem.
Misstep #5: “I will be seen as a micro-manager.” In a world where a collaborative style is revered and a command-and-control approach is frowned upon, the practice of monitoring has an undeserved bad name and has fallen out of favor. The more you delegate and empower others in your business, the more you actually need to monitor and track their progress. Following up and monitoring progress are not synonymous with micro-managing. Monitoring, when done well, can be a constructive activity that provides an opportunity to make course corrections and praise good performance.
Misstep #6: “It’s easier if I just do it myself.” Doing it yourself may seem like a good idea when you’re making the call, but few actions can be as damaging to fostering accountability as this one. “When you don’t hold others accountable and you take on the work yourself, you become complicit in the cycle of poor performance and lack of accountability,” says Lepsinger. “If you do not break this negative cycle, you will always have to do it yourself because you’ve missed a coachable moment and an opportunity to set expectations.”
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.