Stop Managing Conversations, Start Managing Results!

If you keep having conversations with people and not getting the output you want, then you may be managing the wrong thing!

By Vicki Suiter

Over the past twenty years, one of the most common complaints I’ve heard from business owners is: “People don’t do what they say they’re going to do!” Or, “My staff is completely dependent on me to get their jobs done.” The problem? Lack of clear accountability!

The role your business environment or “culture” plays in getting things done is as important as the methods you use. By creating “a culture that promotes accountability,” your business environment places value on keeping its agreements. Rather than continually telling people to do something, you and your staff have agreed-upon job descriptions that clarify what they are accountable for. Rather than chasing people down for promises made and not kept, you have a system for tracking and managing agreements.  Rather than letting things ‘fester’ when things aren’t working, you address it.  These are the cornerstones for building a culture that promotes accountability and is the key to your freedom, fun and peace of mind as a business owner and/or manager!

Creating a culture that promotes accountability gives everyone you work with, inside and outside your company, clear standards to operate by.  As a result, people are more likely to do what they say they will do when they say they will do it.  You have something concrete to manage staff and others by, rather than managing them one conversation at a time. You will produce more consistent results in your company, foster better team work and develop happier employees and vendors.  All of these things result in a sustainably successful company on which you can grow and prosper.

Imagine having more time for the important things in your business and having more fun! This is what creating a culture that promotes accountability can give you.

Here are the keys for creating a culture that promotes accountability in your company:

Key 1

Align staff on a common purpose and motivate them to take actions consistent with that purpose.

  • Be clear about each person’s roles and responsibilities, so everyone knows when they are winning the game. A business is often compared to a game or sport. In both, there is a clearly defined goal you are working toward in a synergistic way. The business owner or manager leads the team and calls the plays, and the players execute them.
  • Written job descriptions outline the players’ roles in the game, the specific results for which they are accountable and how to win the game. (For Vicki’s article on writing job descriptions, send an email at [email protected].)
  • Make the job description specific and measurable about conditions of fulfillment with clear, measurable objectives and results. The more measurable, the clearer and easier it will be for you and your employee to know if performance is on track.
  • Ask your staff to provide input in writing the job description. This creates buy-in, which is essential for creating a great team. When both of you agree on the job description, both of you sign it.
  • Every job description needs three to five key areas of critical focus that drive the success of that position. The key areas are clear and transparent to the manager and employee. Depending on the position, results can be tracked weekly or monthly.

Key 2

Manage to objectives by being clear, direct and assertive, rather than confrontational or aggressive.

  • Once you have agreement from staff on specific responsibilities, the job description dictates the terms of fulfillment, not you.
  • You don’t have to be the “bad guy.” When you focus on “playing the game” based on the agreements in the job description you both created, your job gets easier. You’re the manager, not the task master.
  • The more objective you can be about what is and is not working, the easier it will be for employees to hear your feedback. Anger puts people on the defensive. If you or the employee is emotionally charged, a “cooling” off period is needed before discussing performance.

Key 3

Honest and frank conversations with people build trust and good, long-term relationships.

  • People naturally want to do a good job. They want feedback when they are and when they are not doing a good job.
  • If someone is not getting their job done satisfactorily, address it with them. This builds credibility and accountability.
  • When you are honest and direct with people about the facts, they are more likely to respect you as a leader.

Key 4

Implement the tactics for managing to resultsthat successful companies use to transform their businesses!

  • Create a system to manage results with staff on a weekly basis. Track specific results using the job description and promises made at meetings.
  • Hold people—including yourself– accountable for agreements. Often, the biggest problem with lack of accountability in an organization originates at the top with an owner or manager who breaks agreements by being late to meetings, cancelling meetings, or simply saying they will do something and then not doing it. This erodes credibility and lowers the bar for how people will behave.
  • Keep minutes for every meeting. Track each action, who is accountable and when it will be accomplished. Re-visit those agreements at the start of the next meeting.
  • Don’t abdicate—delegate and manage. This sets up everyone to win. If employees wanted to be their own bosses, they would be.
  • Provide honest and direct feedback on what is working, what is not working and what needs to be different. You will feel better, and people will respect you more for it.

Key 5

Hold accountability as a core value and communicate it to others.

  • Let people you work with know you are going to start “doing things differently” and then explain how.
  • Walk the talk – keep YOUR agreements with people!
  • Get fiercely committed – be willing to put these practices into place.
  • Be honest with yourself and others.  If it’s not working, look at causes and make course corrections.
  • ALWAYS acknowledge and celebrate successes!!!

 Benefits of creating a culture that promotes accountability:

  • Organizations that practice direct, honest feedback build stronger managers and leaders.
  • Companies where employees hold each another accountable for actions and agreements build cultures of trust and respect.
  • People who act accountably treat everyone more respectfully and turn customers into raving fans.
  • Business owners who stop having conversations and start manage to results avoid “micromanaging” their businesses. They can be away from the business more, and things continue to function without them.

Creating a culture that promotes accountability is the key for creating an organization that has sustainable success! Changing a culture requires consistent, persistent and committed action. Be willing to hang in there until it becomes “the way you do business!”

One of the best books I’ve read on the topic of managing to results is Good to Great by Jim Collins. A must-read for any business owner or manager who is interested in building a great company!

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