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3 Mistakes Owners and Managers Make While Trying to Create a Culture of Accountability

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One of the biggest challenges small business owners face today is creating a culture where they and their team members can be held responsible for getting the right kind of results. For example, you and your team might project that with current market demands and the right mix of new clients, your company should be able to bring in an additiional 15 percent in business this year.


Related: 4 Steps to Building a Culture of Accountability

The challenge is, how do you get everyone, and I mean everyone, to totally commit to making this focus a reality?

Along the way, there are plenty of mistakes business owners may make that will sabotage this goal, including three of the biggest:

  1. Not including personal accountability in the rules of the game
  2. Being vague or general with the goals for their company.
  3. Setting too many boundaries.

1. Not including personal accountability in the rules of the game 

The obvious implication here is that accountability by each and every member of the company has to be a core value.

I remember how, in one business I worked at early in my career, the owner allowed certain salespeople to cheat the leads system. For whatever reason, he felt that it did no harm to let a few people solicit and sell to accounts that had been sold and serviced by other sales representatives. Did that practice infuriate those salespeople who lost sales to the dishonest sales reps? You bet.

But, even though the majority of the sales reps were honest and ethical, they were powerless to do anything about the situation. The owner ignored requests to correct the recalcitrant and fraudulent behavior. Because, as long as the company got the sale, he did not care who got the commission. 

A better way to prevent this predicament from becoming an issue at all would have been to institute and enforce a policy that prohibited such dishonest behavior. As management consultants Roger Connors and Tom Smith say, “When people are accountable to themselves and each other, trust improves, and walls fall down.”

2. Being vague or general with goals for the company

In short, the owner here is not clearly communicating what the specific goals are. 

In another company I worked with, the owner, from time to time, would set sales goals that were unrealistic. He believed that if he could just pump up his troops, they would believe it was possible to achieve his improbable goals. One of the limiting factors, though, was that he didn’t give his salespeople additional tools, funding or the guidance needed to make those sales goal achievable.

Related: Build Accountability to Create an Unstoppable Business 

The result was that people tried, but soon became frustrated by, the lack of direction and the disjointed efforts of the other sales team members; then they gave up.

In many instances like the above illustration, the business owner is a big-picture type of person and doesn’t waste time looking at the details, so specific goals are not set. Owners like this have the misbelief that if they set big, hairy, audacious goals, they will achieve them. They believe in the saying, “If we build it, they will come.”

The sad part, though, is that “they” (the customers) ain’t really coming, and the business owner has no clue. So, the owner ends up blaming the economy, the sales team or even the U.S. president, but never himself (or herself). Team members sense that their leader may be fearless, but they also see someone who's clueless in leading the charge.

In other words, they realize that this person doesn’t really have all the answers despite feigning otherwise. Don’t let this happen to you, or your company or organization.

3. Setting too many boundaries.

This is the direct opposite of the second mistake but can be just as fatal. The key here is to give your team the ability and authority to be creative in achieving the results you want. Provide support and encouragement, but do not micromanage the situation. In other words, do not be overbearing. Give your people room to make mistakes and the freedom to learn from them. 

One way you can sabotage your team’s efforts when allowing them this kind of freedom to fail or succeed is through your body language or verbal insinuations that can up-end any positive and creative problem-solving. If your team's efforts result in a success, give positive feedback. If a failure occurs, give corrective encouragement and guidance. Just remember: A culture of accountability starts with you.

Related: Lessen the Burden Of Accountability With These 3 Simple Rules

Tom Borg

Written By

Tom Borg is a business expert who works with small and mid-size companies to profitably improve customer acquisition and retention and employee performance. He does this through his consulting, speaking, and professional writing. For more information on how he can help you and your company call   (734) 404-5909 or email him at: or visit his website at: