As a business leader have you ever caught yourself saying…
‘I wish people would just come to work and do their jobs’.
Having heard this many times in my work with business owners, here’s how I respond:
First, I listen and allow the business owner to vent for a few moments, then I remind them of these three facts:
In other words, if they’re not happy with how people are performing in their business it’s on them to fix it.
So the $64,000 Question is: Did they establish clear expectations?
And that’s where these two words come into play:
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, and they are necessary if you expect your team to meet your expectations.
Ironically the dictionary definitions of these words look fairly 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.
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 accountabilities are a whole different thing. Unless you're hiring a sales position where outcomes are very clear, chances are you didn't discuss accountabilities 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.
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 a percentage of available appointments that were 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.
These accountability measurements are also know 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 it’s functional areas that measures performance daily, weekly, and monthly.
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. Accountabilities are the outcomes you expect from the actions they take. Everyone is responsible for their actions, but only one person is accountable to the results, whether that be you, a manger reporting to you, or an individual staff member.
To get the most from your team it’s imperative you are crystal clear on what you expect:
Reach out to me if you’d like to dig deeper on this topic and find out how you can gain better control of your business and unlock its full potential. Comment below, use this contact form, or click here if you’d like to schedule a free 15-minute strategy call to explore what might work for you. And, if you found this article useful, please share it so others can learn how to find focus in their lives and businesses.