I remember as a kid going to the mall and trying to walk up the down escalator.
Only, if you walked too slow, you’d still be sliding backwards, but if you began running, you’d eventually make it to the top.
That’s exactly how far too many business owners operate their business. They are running against the escalator when trying to keep up with everything they need to do.
Too often they are running hard like this because it’s all they know to do.
Instead of delegating to others and managing expectations, the business leader continues running hard, and the business struggles to reach its full potential.
This can easily happen to any busy business owner who is too nice, or they don’t communicate well, or they don’t make time to inspect work, or they have too much trust people are doing their jobs. Does any of this sound familiar?
It’s in this kind of business where the culture tends to feel a bit chaotic, and where results don’t meet the desired expectations. It also leads to a frustrated, unhappy business owner finding it difficult to gain control and make the necessary adjustments, or not knowing even where to start.
Based on my experience, what owners really want is for people to do their jobs well, and to have a business where customers continue to return, and employees are happy to stay.
So what’s the one strategy to solve this business challenge? Establish Clear Expectations.
And that’s where these two words come into play: Responsibility and Accountability. Responsibility and accountability are the yin yang of performance management. They work well together, but they don’t mean the same things.
Yet, as business owners, we sometimes haphazardly interchange them. And when we do, we're not always aware of the impact it can have on our businesses. For instance, what exactly do we mean when we tell our staff they have certain responsibilities? Or when we tell them they are being held accountable?
These are two powerful words when it comes to employee performance management, and they are necessary if you expect your team to meet your expectations. Ironically the dictionary definitions of these words look similar. The word "responsibility" has accountable in its definition, and the word "accountability" has responsible in its definition. What gives? They seem interchangeable.
So, let's dig a bit deeper. In his book Scaling Up, Verne Harnish offers his definitions. He defines accountability as the "one person who has the ability to count” and defines responsibility as "anyone with the ability to respond". Using his definitions means the one person accountable is the person tracking progress and speaking out when issues come up.
It means that everyone is responsible to proactively support the team, the business and its processes. To put it into even simpler terms everyone is responsible for their actions and how they represent the business. Only one person can be held accountable when it comes to measuring the results. Measuring is the key to achieving results.
The rule as stated by Verne is: “If more than one person is accountable then no one is accountable, and that's when things fall through the cracks”. In all probability, you have a list of responsibilities for each of your staff positions. You discussed these responsibilities when you made the hire and may revisit them on occasion throughout the year (and specifically when you evaluate performance). After all, responsibilities are how you expect this person to act in their position.
But accountability is a whole different thing. Unless you're hiring a sales position where outcomes are very clear, chances are you didn't discuss accountability when you were interviewing. These are the specific results one would expect from this position. Take, for instance, an administrative staff member in a dentist office.
The responsibilities may include answering the phones, helping patients set appointments, checking patients in and out, taking payments, setting return appointments, and conducting reminder calls while remaining pleasant and helpful. These are all actions to be expected from anyone working at the front desk.
The outcome (or results of these actions) is the practice having a full schedule where patients are placed in a time slot that allows the practice to operate efficiently and on-time. That is the power of KPIs (key performance indicators).
Now, in order to have accountability, there needs to be a measurement. In this example, it might be the percentage of available provider appointments filled by a patient, or what I’ll call a fill rate. This is how a percentage of available appointments get filled, and a patient was seen.
The admin staff is responsible for keeping the schedule full, so if a patient cancels it’s also their responsibility to fill it. They are accountable to maintaining a minimum fill rate for the practice. The accountability goal could be a 90% fill rate. A team leader or a manager would be accountable for keeping track and raising the red flag if problems arise.
It's all about keeping score in your business. These accountability measurements are also known as KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators. It’s possible that every member of your staff can have their own KPI. At a minimum, though, there should be a handful of KPIs the business tracks in each of its functional areas that measures performance daily, weekly, and monthly. Measuring is the key to achieving results!
For a busy business owner, KPIs are the simplest way to know if the business and the staff had a good day or not.
Which brings us back to these two words: responsibility and accountability. As you can see, they aren’t interchangeable and they’re both crucial to the success of your business.
Responsibilities are how you expect your team members to act in their position and within the business. Accountability happens when the outcomes you expect occur because of the actions they take.
Everyone has responsibility for their actions, but only one person is accountable to the results, whether that be you, a manager reporting to you, or an individual staff member. Performance management is essential. Measuring is the key to monitoring results.
Use These Business Performance Tips. To get the most from your team it’s imperative you are crystal clear on what you expect:
You create alignment among your team when expectations are clearly communicated and reviewed. You create precision in your business using KPIs to hold the team accountable to expectations. This enables effective performance management. When a business achieves a high level of Precision and Alignment, the business result is delivering an exceptional customer experience every time.