Accountability: The #1 Most Misunderstood Key to Business Success

Show of hands. . .

How many of you have experienced accountability described as negative?

“Who’s accountable for this mess?”

“I am holding you accountable for the failure of this project.”

“If this doesn’t go the way we expect, we’re holding you accountable!”

This sort of phrasing condemns accountability as useful only for guilting, manipulating, and coercing.

What a toxic disempowerment of others!

In contrast, I believe accountability to be an abundant gift that brings with it success beyond an entrepreneur’s wildest dreams.

And I know that because accountability for my clients has resulted in tens of millions in sales and profits that simply did not exist before accountability entered the picture.

Instead of a euphemism for rubbing people’s faces into the dirt of their own follies, foibles, and failures, I define accountability as the process of taking ownership for your decisions, desires, and the consequences of both.

In other words, you must first accept ownership of your circumstances before you can control your results.

Accountability is a state of being.  A choice.  A choice to own the circumstances of your life and business and what you want to do with them.  When things don’t go as you had hoped, it is an opportunity to ask, “What part did I play in this situation? What can I do to change it?”  Being accountable puts you in control of the events in your life.  Not the victim of them.   

Let’s look at an example of this in Social Justice. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a victim of racism. He was a charismatic leader with clear plan to change his world. He could have chosen to be a victim, but that would have deprived him of the opportunity to lead a nation towards the realization of his “Dream”.

For you to realize your dream in business, you must build your accountability on a solid foundation. The bricks, mortar, and level you need to construct this foundation are clarity, responsibility, and commitment.

Clarity for your situation and how you got there.

Responsibility for the choices you’ve made — and will have to make.

Commitment to following through on the best way forward.

Let’s dig deeper into each of these.

You would not tell your Vice President of Sales, “Make sure your team sells some stuff this month.”

Offer clarity instead. In business situations, be very specific about your expectations.

  • Great!  So that report will be on my desk by 5pm this afternoon?
  • Of course!  Your order will be delivered to your office by 3pm this afternoon.
  • I will have three versions of the photo ready for you to review at 9am tomorrow.  

Being accountable means being clear about what can be expected of you, as well as what you expect of others. This transparency can be difficult for those of us used to playing the blame game. So remember, if we are all clear about our expectations, there is no escape hatch if we don’t deliver.

Accountability also requires responsibility.

Being responsible is the best way to gain the respect of those around you.  Notice also the power to be gained from being responsible. No longer are you at the mercy of others because, “It’s not my job,” becomes, “Let me see what I can do to solve this problem.”  

As a Business Owner, don’t be afraid to invite your peers, mentors, and even employees to evaluate your progress. Living accountably requires being open enough to acknowledge when you are falling short of your goals.

How do you think your team will feel when they know that you are open to hearing the truth about your performance? They’ll love it. And respect you for it. Do you think that will make it easier for you to be honest with them? Of course you do!

But effective accountability is more than owning up to your behavior and getting clear on what you expect from yourself and others.

Nothing game-changing happens until commitment enters the playing field.

Accountability is not a sometime thing.  Clarity and responsibility are great, yet they are just occasional moments of light if we don’t stay committed to being accountable.

Inviting a partner or coach to join you on the journey to being (and staying) accountable, is a great way to stay committed to your goal. Having an accountability partner or coach to encourage, guide, and offer you honest feedback as you harness the personal power that comes with living an accountable life is likely to strengthen your resolve and increase the likelihood that you will stay the course.  

You might ask someone you admire, perhaps a mentor, if she would agree to support you in this way. Perhaps you know someone who would like to team up and be your accountability partner while you offer him the same gift.  

You may also choose to hire a trained professional to coach you through the process.  Whatever path you choose, stay the course. The end result is too important to give it anything less than your best effort.

Higher profits, system wide integrity, and cohesive teamwork are all by-products of an accountability-based culture. And every company culture starts with the Owner.

So, want results? Get accountable.

From the top. . . straight to the bottom line.

Are you ready to become the next success story?

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