Most business managers preach that the key to success is holding employees accountable for actions. I have found that successful entrepreneurs are all about holding themselves accountable. They skip the blame and make things happen, despite major obstacles.
In reality, the picture is a bit larger than this, as outlined in a new book “Leading with GRIT,” by Laurie Sudbrink, a well-known business leadership coach and speaker. She defines GRIT® as Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth, with accountability being a major component of integrity. All these elements, can move people from accountability to total leadership.
Accountability, can be explained in the Accountability Ladder. It has been included in every Management 101 class for many years. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs never get the opportunity to take this class. Here are the eight basic proponents:
- No accountability, person totally unaware of failures. These are business people, who do not have a clue about what is required or the devastation they leave behind. These people think they are doing a great job, and do not know that their customers are unhappy.
- Use blame and complain in lieu of accepting accountability. Some business people always play the victim, finding someone or some natural force as the cause for all their failures. This blame can be towards unfair managers, blaming economic downturns, and irrational customer expectations for missed commitments.
- People deliver excuses rather than results. It is easy for an entrepreneur or an employee to convince themselves that they would have been successful if they had more time, received more funding, or had the proper training to do the job. Usually the real culprit is procrastination, lack of focus, or low productivity, and lack of metrics.
- Wait and hope for a miracle. Entrepreneurs with the mantra “if we build it, they will come,” and executives who do not communicate their expectations, fall into this category. Employees cannot be accountable, if they do not know what is expected of them. Entrepreneurs will not be successful if they have a passion, but no plan and no target.
- Accountability starts by acknowledging reality. Business people at this level recognize the magnitude of the workload, and the specific tasks required for success. Smart entrepreneurs know they must deliver a quality product, develop a winning business model, and attract real customers. All that is left is to commit and deliver.
- The next step is to accept ownership and responsibility. Moving forward into the business realities requires courage, commitment, and determination to succeed. If the motivation is not strong enough, it is easy for people to fail, and cover their lack of ownership with excuses, blame, and complaints.
- Apply known solutions to predictable tasks and challenges. Most good employees and executives perform at this level of accountability. They admit to owning the situation. They pride themselves on their professional abilities. When the totally unexpected happens, they may be quick unload the problem up the line, or fail.
- Accept total accountability and make it happen. These are the cherished entrepreneurs who succeed despite tough odds. The employees who come up with new approaches to delight your customers, achieve breakthrough goals, and develop innovative new products for markets.
Accountability should be the guiding principle for entrepreneurs who seek to change the world. It is also for employees who want to stand out above the rest. Before you start assessing accountability in others, it usually pays to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror. Are you accountable for your actions?
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