Building Accountability

122613_1835_BuildingAcc1.pngA dirty little secret in business is that most organizations lack accountability at all levels from the leader to front-line management to individual employees:

  • Assignments are not completed as promised
  • Problems are left half resolved
  • Phone calls are not returned

As pointed out in the The Oz Principle (perhaps the most well-known book about accountability), employees in most organizations play the “Blame Game:”

  1. Wait and See
  2. Confusion / Tell Me What to Do
  3. It’s Not My Job
  4. Ignore / Deny
  5. Finger Pointing
  6. Cover Your Tail

Now, the challenging question (for which The Oz Principle does not really have a good answer)…

How do those of us who work in the real world transform our flawed organizations into ones characterized by accountability, personal responsibility, and ownership?

  1. Be An Example: As leaders, we need to be accountable. This means living up to our commitments and avoiding all aspects of the “Blame Game” that may soothe our egos, but do nothing to move the business forward.
  2. Be Clear and Simple: We need to ensure that our employees fully understand the expectations and the tasks that need to be accomplished to satisfy those expectations.
  3. Demand Accountability for the Most Important: In business today, not everything can be done; there is too much on people’s plate. Thus, we need to demand accountability on only those tasks and goals that are most important to the success of the business.
    1. Ensuring that employees are responsive to the requests of customers and other employees is crucial; holding employees accountable to attend an industry seminar or study the competition may not be.
  4. Focus on Activities and Behaviors: We cannot be 100% responsible for our results. The competition, the economy, and luck always play a role. We can, however, be 100% accountable for the activities and behaviors of our team. Over time, accountability for what we and our team do each day and how we get it done will lead to success.
  5. Follow-Up: To build accountability in our organizations, we need to follow up relentlessly. This consistent follow up needs to persist until the proper activities and behaviors have become habits for our employees.
  6. Change the people or change the people: Through our leadership in following the first five steps, most of our team will become more accountable. But, several may not. If we cannot changes these employees to be more accountable in their activities and behaviors, then we will need to change these employees out and hire employees who are willing and able to be accountable. In the end, our other team members (those who have been living with and covering for the lack of accountability of their fellow employee) will thank us.

About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Improve / Turnaround, Perform / Execution, Team / People and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Building Accountability

  1. Anonymous says:

    Accountability is one of the management skills that seems to missing most of the time. I feel that one of the main reasons that leaders do not hold their team accountable is because they are afraid of what they will find out. Do I have the courage to deal with unresolved issues? I don’t enjoy confrontation! If I confront members of my team, they may get mad a leave, then what will I do? (These are the common excuses used by weak leaders). Managerial Courage is directly related to holding your team Accountable.

    Great article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s