Accountability. A seemingly simple word, but one that carries with it so much impact throughout your business. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of accountable is to be answerable, as in being responsible for damage caused. In that respect, another way they define accountability is being able to explain that damage.
But really, accountability in your business is about Who does What, and then Who’s commitment and delivery around that What. In other words, it’s the responsibility and answerability of your people and your teams for their actions, decisions, and performance. Accountability is a key component in maintaining a thriving company culture, as it is a key factor in building and maintaining transparency and trust. It’s about taking ownership of your work. It’s about delivering on commitments. It’s about answering for failures and even successes. What it is really all about is continuous improvement as an organization.
Seems straightforward enough, right? Well, you might be surprised at how many business owners struggle with the concept, implementation and execution of accountability
The Importance of Being Accountable
Maintaining a structure of accountability is vital to the success of virtually every business today. Enterprise systems are for the most part relatively good at this. SMBs on the other hand, sometimes struggle with accountability, falling back on the “everyone here does everything” trope or the employees knowing that the owner will do whatever they didn’t do to get things done or done correctly.
Regardless of the size of an organization, poor accountability can wield a massive negative impact on efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
How often have you experienced:
- Confusion around who is responsible for a certain task. Perhaps two people are duplicating the same work – or worse, an important ball gets dropped because no one is performing the task due to a misunderstanding of responsibility.
- Wasted time because there is an accountability gap. You find that you require multiple people and numerous conversations to sort through why things aren’t getting done.
- Goals that aren’t achieved on time. Or perhaps not at all, due to lack of clarity around accountability functions.
Help is also a key element in accountability. It is important that both you and your team know how important – and okay – it is to ask for help when needed. This might manifest itself in a team member asking another to take over all or some of their task. In this scenario, the final buck still falls on the former, as they are ultimately accountable for the task being completed, regardless of whether they meted out some of the responsibility to someone else. An employee asking for clarity on how to perform an activity is another form of accountability-related help. Help also might mean clarity. A common example of this is when charging someone with a task that they simply don’t have the bandwidth for, a tradeoff may be required. “Okay, I can do that. But what do you not want me to do in order to give me the capacity to complete what you do want me to do?” And of course, another part of help in accountability is actually offering to assist or support another member of the team who may be struggling. Good team players transcend even the most stringent accountability structure.
Map It Out
Most of you are familiar with an organization chart that shows the reporting relationships within an organization, but how familiar are you with an accountability chart? An accountability chart is a clear and concrete overview of roles, responsibilities, and structure throughout your company. And it can make a huge difference in how your business functions.
An accountability chart is invaluable because it:
- Establishes clear accountabilities for each role in the organization (an accountability chart is complementary to an organization chart).
- Helps everyone achieve business goals.
- Streamlines communication by providing clarity on who is responsible for what.
- Enhances performance due to an emphasis on personal responsibility.
When you create and begin executing a accountability chart in your business, you will likely identify a number of gaps that simply aren’t covered within the chart. So your next job is to fill in the gaps.
It’s No Secret
It is critical to define your accountability chart with your leadership team – they have a lot of skin in the game, since it is likely that each leadership role has some significant accountabilities. You will also want to communicate the accountability chart to the rest of your organization, so that they know who is responsible for various tasks. When your team understands the accountability structure in your business, tasks and activities tend to get done better, more efficiently, and more profitably.
Remember this. As a business owner, it is difficult to hold your people accountable if you don’t hold yourself accountable first. It is essential that, as the leader of your company, you consistently model accountability behaviors. So be sure to complete your commitments as promised and on time.
By demonstrating accountability in yourself, you help create a thriving culture that encourages others to do the same.
Blair Koch is the CEO of TAB Denver West, a TAB CEO Advisory Board Facilitator, and a Business Ownership Lifecycle Coach. Blair has spent most of her career helping small business owners achieve their personal and professional goals. She also hosts the Best Businesses in Denver podcast.