Responsibility And Accountability: Where Does It Begin?
12 Smart Steps To Better Manage Yourself And Others
Ponder this question for a moment. If everyone held themselves responsible and were accountable for everything in their lives, how would that change the world? Instead of pointing your finger at everyone and everything else when things go awry, what if you pointed instead to yourself?
It’s interesting that when “crunch time” hits and slips, or something goes sideways, the blame finger invariably points outward—rarely inward. When was the last time you took an introspective view of a problem or situation and asked, “What could I have done to make that situation run smoother or better?”
As managers, parents and coaches, we need to instill a sense of accountability and responsibility within our staff, children and players. Most importantly, when they see that we have set the bar high for ourselves and hold ourselves accountable, we gain the respect, admiration and dedication we need as leaders.
Personal Responsibility And Accountability
The very mention of the term “personal accountability” conjures up uneasy feelings and raises stress—like being micro-managed or examined under a microscope. Personal responsibility and accountability are imperative in running any organization, whether it’s a business, a household or a team. Everyone needs to be responsible and accountable, so where does it begin?
When you hone and develop these 12 skills, they will lay a solid foundation for positive growth on multiple levels.
1. Set expectations and be clear. In any given situation, it’s important to have clear goals and expectations for all parties involved. You have certain expectations and so does the other party. For example, as a sales manager, if your expectations are for your salespeople fill out their call reports, you must learn to explain and demonstrate in detail why you need these and how to do them correctly. Explain what you look for in these reports and how their efforts will benefit all parties toward growing more sales, increasing profitability and keeping their sales pipelines full. Write down your expectations and review each point with your team. Do not move forward to the next step until everyone is clear and has signed off on their complete understanding of the process. It’s more work but worth it in the long term.
2. Get all of the facts to avoid unfair accusations. When there is a mistake or a problem, before firing off accusations on who is to blame, take the time to gather all the facts. This is critical. Parents know that issues among siblings can get tense and when an issue arises, they need to investigate it thoroughly and have all the facts before making a determination on next steps. The same holds true in business. Years ago, a salesperson came to me berating a supplier. At first blush, it appeared the supplier had indeed dropped the ball. However, once I took the time to gather all of the paperwork and made the appropriate calls to ensure I had all the information, I found out that the salesperson failed to do his job on nearly eight of the 10 steps to ensure a successful transition of the order. The supplier was proven right and we ate the order. If our expectations are that we want to be strategic partners with our suppliers and hold them accountable, then it is imperative we do the same with ourselves. Getting all the facts before judgment is critical to being responsible and accountable.
3. Be timely. Nothing can be worse than bringing up a problem that happened weeks ago. When so much time has passed, it’s difficult to sift through the issues to understand the problem in full. Instead, address all issues in a timely manner. Handling the issues immediately shows that you are on top of what’s going on and you are interested in addressing things and moving forward. Issues that lag create stress for everyone concerned, but swift, positive action creates a sense of urgency for your organization.
4. Show kindness and consideration: the Golden Rule. How do you like to be treated? Most people want to be dealt with in a kind and professional manner. Sometimes we lose sight of this. I have seen some managers who feel a need to be rigid and aggressive in order to make a statement. This approach often leads to frustration because team members are likely to perceive them as arrogant and unapproachable. This is not to say that you cannot be firm and direct when a serious issue arises, but think hard before you react. Frustration often leads us to do and say things we would not have said if the situation weren’t so tense. Pause before you react; your intensity should be consistent with the seriousness of the situation.
5. Be consistent and even-handed; equality counts. Not every situation deserves a harsh reprimand. The point of consistency is most important in family-owned businesses where there are also employees who are outside of the family. I have seen organizations where the owner is sometimes very hard on family members and less intensive on outsiders and vice versa. Balance and consistency are so important because showing favoritism creates dissention and animosity—two things you do not need in any organization or on any team.
6. Show discretion; coach privately. Nothing is more demoralizing to a team or staff member than to be publicly chastised. Give yourself a few moments to think through the situation and then take the person aside and have the discussion privately. This shows respect for the other person and you will gain admiration and gratitude in return, even if the discussion is tough.
7. Be gracious; commend for good work and habits. More often than not, giving praise for a job well done and sending short notes, a quick email or public affirmation is better than a $50 bonus. People like to be appreciated for their efforts—make sure you do your part to acknowledge good work habits. Praising when it’s warranted also makes it easier when you have to discuss more complex, problematic issues later.
8. Strive for balance; don’t always be negative. When you find the need to discuss a problem with a team member, acknowledge their good work habits and behavior too. This way you can reinforce your expectations, and the individual can more easily make the connection and see where they faltered and need improvement. Infusing the positive along with the negative will always prove beneficial long term.
9. Be communicative. The way you speak with people sets your tone. Communication is not just how you verbalize your thoughts and comments; it’s also your look, tone, gestures and body language. For instance, if you are sharing your concerns with someone but you’re looking away, engaging in work or checking your text messages, there will be a significant disconnect in your communication. When you need to discuss something, clear your plate, be totally focused on the situation at hand and deal with it head on. By being totally engaged at all levels of communication you are more likely to find a clear solution to the problem or situation.
10. Be approachable and open to all possibilities. Do you sit in your ivory tower or do you have a true open-door policy? Does your team, staff, child or spouse find you approachable? The true sign of a good leader is one who is open and approachable, because the fact is people are looking to you for direction and guidance. Nothing is more frustrating than to work with someone in authority who is close-minded and a hermit. Get out among the people you manage, be involved and let them see your presence. This will instill confidence in them that you are engaged in their growth and well-being.
11. Be coachable; you are never too old to learn. My son Alex and daughter Caitlin became really active in their high school lacrosse teams and were exceptional players. When they left for college, their love of the game continued. Before they left, I remember them asking, “Dad, what should remember if I want to excel at sports?” I told them that there are two things to remember, “Be eligible, and secondly, be coachable.” In other words, academics come first, otherwise no college in the country is going to want you. No coach or university wants someone who can only shoot a lacrosse ball but can’t produce in the classroom—studies come first. Be eligible to play. Then by all means be coachable. Listen, ask questions, be inquisitive and go beyond the basics. No matter how long you’ve played the game, you can always learn something. Be open to the possibilities. As the coach, be open to learning too.
12. Be passionate. Last, be passionate about what you do—every aspect of what you do. Loving what you do is great but passion is infectious. Let everyone in your family, business, organization or team see the passion in you; this quality will go viral quickly and makes for a great environment.
Taking these qualities and melding them together makes good organizations great. Whether it is a family, a business or a lacrosse team, personal responsibility and accountability go a long way. Always remember, accountability begins with you. Be introspective and willing to say, “How can I improve?”
Imagine each of us doing these 12 things. What a better world it would be.
Cliff Quicksell, Jr., MAS+, serves both as a consultant and acting director of marketing for distributor iPROMOTEu. He has been in the promotional industry for more than 30 years in various capacities. Additionally, Quicksell is president of his own international speaking and consulting company, speaking, coaching and consulting on ways and methods that companies can grow, expand and prosper. He has helped and spoken to audiences in more than eight countries and has published two books and more than 800 articles on sales, marketing and creativity. He can be reached at 301-717-0615, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his LinkedIn profile.