One of the most common challenges amongst business owners remains transitioning from being a member of the team to being a leader of the team. It’s difficult for the founder of the business, who birthed the business, to morph into a leadership role and begin to delegate the tasks of running the business to team members. This transition doesn’t have to be onerous or scary. If done correctly, this movement creates the foundation of freeing other members of the team to reach their maximum potential.

These transitions don’t necessarily happen just once in the life of a business. There will be multiple times that founders and leaders will find themselves with plates too full to function effectively and be forced to decide between staying comfortable or moving tasks to others. The earlier that methodology can be established, enabling this transition to occur quickly and effectively, the more robust the growth of the business. Meeting the needs of a growing business will require multiple decisions. The ability to lead people toward proactively engaging in actions and decision making enables the business to move forward without the need to check everything with the leader.

“Come on!” I can hear it in your head right now. “That can’t happen easily. I am the one that is most effective at running my business. If I can get others to just do as I say, I’ll be fine.” “I’ve tried to hand off responsibility for certain areas and the people I put in charge don’t do it the way I want. It’s quicker for me to just do it myself!”

Here is the secret to taking your practice to the next level. However, it requires you to use the “A” word and that scares people! Who in the world would use a word that causes world leaders to tremble, teachers to hide and the less timid to just fade right out of sight? You will! If you want to move your business forward intentionally, and with less effort than you’ve spent to get this far, you will in fact embrace the word and begin to shout it from the rooftops—accountability.

Accountability is one of the most misused and misunderstood words in the English language. For most people, the word connotes negative action. “The person who caused this must be held accountable!”; “We will hold those responsible accountable. Someone has to be held accountable for this catastrophe!” That is most likely how you’ve heard the word used by politicians, business leaders, managers, teachers and a host of others.

Accountability isn’t negative and needs to be driven throughout your organization to enable you, the leader and owner, to begin to make yourself irrelevant to the business. “Irrelevant!”, you say, “This is my business and it only runs when I’m fully involved!” Think about that for a second. If your business only functions while you are there and a part of everything, where is the freedom that is supposed to come with business ownership? Can your business wait for you to make every decision without hindering it?

And think about this, what is your business worth if you want to sell it, if it depends on you to make it run?

The “A” word will enable you to drive consistent action and decision making throughout your organization without you having to be involved at all. Roger Connors and Tom Smith describe accountability in their book, How Did That Happen? Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive Principled Way. They suggest it as “a way of being that enables you, every member of your team and every person in your organization to meet and even surpass your highest expectations.” Isn’t that what you are looking for in your business?

Implementing a culture of accountability begins with establishing a systemic approach that drives action and decision making. That system of accountability is simple but will require discipline to implement. Let’s review the key parts of an accountability system:

    1. Forming clear expectations
    2. Communicating your expectations
    3. Checking for Alignment
    4. Inspecting

The first step requires you and any leader in your organization to take the time to think through and form clear expectations regarding any direction that you are giving to your team members. These expectations should define the outcome, make known the resources available to the team, outline the parameters of the work to be done and have a clear deadline. Taking the time to form clear expectations around any direction you provide to your team will help them understand what you are looking for and clearly outline the scope.

Once those expectations are formed, they need to be communicated. Communication needs to be simple and concise. Any expectation that you have needs to be understood by everyone on the team and that means communicating it clearly and concisely. Providing a hook of some sort that might enable the team to remember key points can be helpful. Additionally, you might consider having the terminology used to communicate expectations be clearly defined by all team members. These nuances will help you communicate expectations to your team and have them better absorb and understand those expectations.

Additionally, you should check for alignment amongst the team in the expectations that were communicated. Did they hear what you wanted them to hear? Are they clear on the expectations and thinking in the same way on each one? Checking for alignment can be as simple as having a team member repeat back what they heard and the leader rank the reply from one to ten – ten being they understand perfectly and one meaning they aren’t close. You don’t tell them how they scored but you keep explaining it to them until they are an 8 or above. Just because you communicate something doesn’t mean that they heard and understand. Checking for alignment will eliminate misinterpretations and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Inspection means to be present and continue to check in with each team member to provide them guidance or direction. Inspections don’t have to be overly formal or even held specifically for each project. One of the simplest methods of inspecting progress around anything is to have regular one on ones with your team members. Whether they are weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or whatever time period you choose, every session should involve getting a feel on where the team member is on all aspects of their current responsibilities. These are sessions where the team member brings their agenda, outlines what they may need to help them accomplish their steps. Then the leader provides guidance and perspective in line with the expectations that have been outlined. These sessions enable the leader to help the team member understand the decision-making process and encourage the team member to continue to make decisions consistent with the expectations that have been outlined. In a clear accountability system, the inspection process is where progress occurs.

The “A” word doesn’t have to cause concern in your business. It should be embraced. A clear accountability system will enable your business to run more smoothly. It ensures that everyone understands expectations that have been well thought out and understands how to execute on their duties. The system provides for guidance and perspective for team members to stay on track and to get the support they need from their leadership. Accountability isn’t negative at all and becomes a method through which consistent action and decision making becomes the hallmark for your business.

If you feel like you might need some help creating a culture of accountability in your organization, let us know. We’d love to be of help.
Categories: Insights

by Tate Kerst

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by Tate Kerst