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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Answer the Call of Accountability


Sometimes I get frustrated with my friend Julie. I haven't been working out as much as I used to and she reminds me that I need to get back at it. And sometimes I feel like snarling at my CPA who reminds me not to expand my business too fast. We all need people to hold us accountable. Sales goals, budgets, contracts and deadlines are just like my friend Julie - they hold us accountable for promises we've made. People in the Smart Zone create accountability by inspiring others to accept responsibility for their actions.

Accountability is really a call from your conscience. It's the voice that tells you to do the best you can and to hold others responsible for being their best selves. People lacking accountability are those who are "along for the ride" floating through life, blaming others for their failures and lacking integrity in relationships.

To stay in the Smart Zone remain accountable to yourself first and use the following Smart Moves to create accountability:

  • Don't confuse obedience with accountability. It is common to confuse accountability with a system for making sure people do what you want them to do using rewards and punishments. Those who obey are merely doing the work to avoid getting punished. And they may do work to avoid getting punished at the expense of other people, morale or customer goodwill. This month's Inc. magazine article, Sins of Commissions, gives great insight into this phenomenon. Just doing what you are told is not accountability. One must take ownership of his successes and failures to be accountable.

  • Discomfort and remorse are important teachers. When someone fails to perform don't minimize the remorse they feel for messing up. Let them experience the emotions so you don't take away their learning. But remember that people don't learn when they feel threatened - so tread lightly.

  • Lead by example. I am guilty of telling my staff to keep our administrative area clutter free and then letting my desk pile up with stuff. If I want my staff to be more accountable, I must be more accountable.

  • Make expectations clear. I recently met Steve Goodson, General Manager of Green Grass Inc., while delivering the opening keynote at the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association's Annual Conference. His system of accountability in his business consists of three morning meetings per week: Monday (set weekly expectations), Wednesday (mid-week status check) and Friday (end of week status check). These meetings created extra work at first. But now everyone looks forward to them because they provide communication about specific company and customer expectations and hold all team members accountable for their promises. His staff appreciates the meetings and his overall business runs smoother.

  • Accountability and responsibility are first cousins. Make and keep your promises. Click here for a funny example of Jerry Seinfeld holding someone accountable for her promise. If you find yourself getting off track stop and check yourself. Be honest with yourself and be honest enough to hold others on your team to their personal best.Accountability comes from within and helps you catch problems early on so that you can take ownership of responding to them. Stop yourself the next time you have the urge to say, "That's not MY job." Hold yourself and others accountable so that everyone will perform at their personal best and work in the Smart Zone.