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27 June 2008

Some thoughts on accountability

If you’re a customer of any business (I think that would include almost everyone), you’re probably very interested in the concept of accountability. If you’re a business owner, you HAVE TO BE very interested in the concept of accountability.

The readers of this column can probably tell by now that I am passionate about some topics. For some, I’m beyond passionate — I’m very blunt. I’ve written about the importance of providing OUTSTANDING customer service, making sure that your company has excellent leadership and building a teamwork atmosphere in your place of business. To that list of topics on which I can tend to be pretty blunt — please add ACCOUNTABILITY.

If you want your life to thrive, you have to embrace the notion that you are fully accountable for every action you take. The same goes for your business. If you want your business to thrive, you must have systems in place to hold your employees accountable for their actions. While I am not a big fan of micro-managing your people, I do think it is vital that employees understand that they will be held to high standards in terms of production, ethical and moral guidelines, truth and integrity. If you give one of your employees a project to complete, you should have accountability standards in place to ensure that the project is completed satisfactorily and in a timely manner. But a lot of companies don’t operate within these accountability standards.

Sometimes, it’s as if projects languish for weeks, months and even years at a time. I’ve seen this first-hand in my business dealings. A project is assigned and then it is all but forgotten by the people who should be monitoring the progress of the project. Sometimes, important projects get put on the so-called “back-burner” because more pressing items come up. I’m all for prioritizing. That makes good business sense; however, there’s a difference between prioritizing and just being lazy. As business owners, you must make sure that if your people are putting things off, there’s a damn good reason for it. I’ve told people who work for me that “I’m too busy” is no longer an excuse for anything. Folks, we’re all busy all the time. We have to be if we want to stay competitive in this marketplace.

Let’s go a step further — as a business owner, you have to hold ALL employees to these standards of accountability. It’s unfortunate and demoralizing when some employees are expected to perform while others “get away with” not doing what they’re supposed to do. It makes the employees who do live up to the accountability guidelines feel as if those who don’t are favored for whatever reason. This simply can’t happen in your business. You need to build a team of people who are “on fire” to make your business leap to a higher level.

One of the ways to do this is to set accountability standards and ENFORCE them. It will help keep people motivated to work hard, work smart and produce. Remember — everyone at a company should benefit from greater production and profitability. Everyone. Reward your people for adhering to the standards you set. Reward them well and they will work harder. Reward them VERY well and your business should take off to heights that you never imagined.

One final thought on accountability — as the business owner, YOU need to hold yourself to the same standards that you give your employees. Remember the old saying — “lead by example?” Live by it and your people will respond. Ignore it and your best employees will eventually leave.

You can take that to the bank.


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