Whatever your position with a company – your role within the organisation matters. There are various functions that each member of the team, as well as your customers, should be able to count on you to provide.
Everyone is expected to come through on promises and commitments made, and to deliver on their responsibilities. If this isn’t the case, a business will never thrive, and may not even survive. Here, William Buist, explains why companies need to have a clear ‘baseline of accountability’ and how to instill one throughout your business.
What accountability really means and why it’s important
In order to ‘get things done’ and for a business to deliver on its promises, all the pieces of the project must be delivered well, to quality, and on time. That means it is important to keep doing the little things, brilliantly, along the way.
This is why the “baseline of accountability” is so important – if you know your baseline, then you know what you are responsible for, why it matters, who is affected, and when your output is needed. Each person knows, and respects, the importance of their contribution. It is something that no one in any business is immune to.
This is not about perfection. Nobody is perfect. But in order to move forward in any relationship, business or profession, there needs to be trust, transparency and honesty. This means that when mishaps happen, the person responsible needs to own that responsibility and take steps to correct it as soon as possible. This builds trust and maintains the strategic pace of a project.
Accountability brings trust
This applies no matter how big or small a role they play in the organisation. When people take responsibility, own their mistakes and learn from them – trust grows.
A common mistake is to think of accountability as an aspect of “doing what you are told” or following the orders of a more senior person. In reality, accountability is about giving an honest account; what’s been done, what’s still to do, what’s been learned, what value has been created.
By giving an account regularly employees can establish, maintain and grow trust, as well as capability, within the organisation.
Business is competitive, within an organisation as well as with different businesses in similar industries. It is a natural reaction for many to try to present themselves in as positive a light as possible and in order to do this some may take short cuts or over-estimate their own capabilities and make promises and commitments that they cannot keep. This leads to a breakdown in trust. In other words they have not met their baseline of accountability and the result is that those around them feel they cannot be relied upon.
How to build a ‘baseline of accountability’ in your business
It is clear therefore that building a baseline of accountability is essential within a business. So here are are 4 things to watch for when building that baseline;
1. Empty enthusiasm
There are often people at every level of a business that like to quote a company’s mission statement and bring a, “Go Gettum, Tiger” attitude into the meetings they attend. Then the meeting adjourns and they approach their work more like a sleepy kitten.
They may hope that if they can create enough fanfare for people to focus on, that will hide their inadequacies. In most cases, they are not fooling anyone. Their co-workers are inclined to think that if a lack-lustre performance is all this person can deliver, that it is all they should worry about as well.
The overall morale sinks and it becomes an uphill battle for management to get anyone to perform as expected.
2. Failing to share credit with team members
Brainstorming sessions help spark creativity in an organisation and make everyone involved feel like they can play an important role in the big picture. However, sometimes an idea comes from one person, and it is another that takes on its implementation, and then gets the credit.
It is important that recognition is appropriate, and proportional. A structure needs to be present that encourages both competition and collaboration.
3. Trying to be an absolute boss
While it is important for management to earn the respect of their employees, and then to maintain that respect, especially in situations where authoritative decisions need to be made, ultimately everyone needs to work together toward a common, aligned goal, regardless of their paygrade.
Management whose words and/or actions send out the constant reminder of, “I am the boss, and you are not” deflate the energy levels of the entire team and leads employees to believe that their efforts will not be recognised.
Worse, it creates and us and them attitude that can be destructive. While major decisions need to be concluded by those in positions of authority, great ideas can come from anywhere. Employees that are regularly given credit are often more willing to accept responsibility.
4. Disrespecting the time and efforts of co-workers
Company rules and regulations are made for a reason – and it’s not to be broken. At every level of an organisation there are people who continually under-perform, and always seem to have a ready excuse it. For example, they may be late getting into the office in the morning, or to meetings – or both. Perhaps the same people call in frequently with an excuse or do not show up at all.
Showing up, both physically and by putting our own stamp on the work we do, is the most important responsibility anyone within the organisation has. Anyone who cannot be held accountable is inadvertently disrespecting the time and effort of everyone who does show up and puts their best effort toward achieving an objective.
Not all issues can be predicted
Of course, there are times when there are legitimately unforeseen obstacles, and everyone deserves a certain amount of grace. Within reason. Trust matters here, and the team will pull together to support someone with a genuine unforeseen difficulty. Protocols should be in place for these types of situations and should be followed.
To use a space based example, when Apollo13 exploded nobody had foreseen the challenges that would then be faced to achieve the second, and arguably most important element of Apollo’s goal, ‘to return safely to earth’.
The baseline of accountability meant that the team could handle the sudden shock, and pressure, of the situation. They supported each other and innovated solutions to ‘impossible’ problems.
No business is immune to the occasional hiccup or bump in the road. When those things happen a business – with a strong baseline of accountability, a group of people willing and able to give an account of their part, of the things they have done, well or badly – is a business that will not just survive, it will thrive.
About the author
This article has been written by ByteStart’s regular business management, strategy and thinking contributor, William Buist. William is a Business Strategist, Speaker, and founder of the exclusive xTEN Club – an annual program that helps business owners to accelerate growth, harness opportunity and build their business. He is also author of two books: ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’. See: WilliamBuist.com for more.
Other articles William has written for ByteStart, include;
- How a collaborative mindset can help your startup succeed
- Start up by listening your way to a better business
- The risks and rewards of being a unique business
- Why your start-up needs to slow down
- How One-to-One marketing can help start-ups to promote, pitch and sell more effectively”
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ByteStart is packed with great guides to help you start and run your own successful business. Here are some of our most popular ones to help you on your way;
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