Do meetings in your office start on time or are you held up by late comers, even those working remotely who invariably dial in late for an audio or video conference? How dedicated are your small business team members to meeting project deadlines?
Being punctual for meetings and completing projects on time are part of accountability, as is fulfilling commitments to customers, to you and to other team mates. Things happen that may cause someone to miss a deadline or be late on occasion. However, when accountability becomes seriously lacking in your small business, it undermines your success.
As management consultant Josh Leibner points out in “Unlocking the Power of Accountability with your Employees,” in Entrepreneur.com, “In small businesses (florist, dry cleaner, law practice or pizza franchise) owners are usually on premises and handle the bulk of customer and supplier interactions. But as those same businesses start to grow, the people hired become the face — and the reputation — of the business. In many ways profitability and ultimately our viability depends on them.”
Accountability cannot be mandated, although it can be cultivated, says Leibner. He advises hiring people who identify with your company mission and culture. After that, you need to convey to your employees that you want them to own the outcomes of their work and not just the activities of their job. This will encourage them to take more initiative in situations where the status quo isn’t working.
Here are other steps to take to accountability:
Clarify goals: Everyone on your team needs to understand what you expect and what success looks like. Work with team members to set standards for their performance and goals for achievement. As much as possible, goals should be specific and measurable and have time frames.
Listen: Be open to advice from your team, whether it’s about working with customers – if they are on the front line and have direct involvement – business processes or procedures, new technology or how to reach a target market. If you want employees to be accountable, encourage them to make suggestions about how to do things more effectively throughout the organization.
Provide training and resources: Support your team with the training and resources – consider providing mobile devices and cloud computing to facilitate working from anywhere – to get the job done. Employees will take more ownership of a situation when they know that your small business is investing in their success.
Give feedback: If something isn’t working, let your employees know with objective feedback. Work with your team to problem solve together.
Evaluate performance: Periodically review performance to see how employees measure up to the goals you agreed on. In addition to quantitative measurements, provide comments from other team members or even customers.
Acknowledge achievement: You keep your employees motivated to be accountable when you acknowledge their performance and contributions to your small business. Rewards can be tangible – a bonus, a gift card or a day off – or simply your high praise.
Accountability is a two-way street. As these steps indicate, you too are accountable to your small business team. It’s up to you to set the direction and provide the tools and guidance for your employees to succeed.