The big “A” that most SMEs miss in their strategy

No, it’s not the Accountant!

Whilst most SMEs have many aspects of their strategy right – good advisers, good accountants, good business coaches, good product or service and good staff, one aspect of the strategy puzzle that SMEs often struggle with is the other big A….Accountability.

In the quest to get and keep good staff, many business owners want to keep things running smoothly and not rock the boat, so keeping staff (and themselves) accountable often falls into the too hard basket.

What does accountability really mean?

The great Stephen R. Covey says that “accountability breeds response-ability”. But what does this actually mean?

Accountability is essentially about ownership and commitment.

It requires employees to step up and take responsibility for results and outcomes.

It’s not about playing the blame game, it’s a team effort where every member of the team looks out for each other and drives one another to achieve success.

Imagine meeting after meeting revealing a series of inconsistencies within your current processes that greatly impact on the level of service your clients were receiving. Great, you’ve identified the problem, and as a group you brainstorm some solutions, but once you leave that room, no one follows up on the actions required to address the problem.

Another year rolls around with more meetings attended, and you’re still faced with the same problem.

Not only have you wasted your time exploring the options, and potentially damaged your relationship with the affected clients, you’ve also eroded the culture and faith of your team as they become despondent that “nothing ever gets done around here”.

All because no one followed through and kept those responsible accountable for achieving the outcome.

Accountability and culture

Accountability, or lack thereof, within an organisation has a direct impact on the culture of a business. If you are constantly accepting excuses for lack of punctuality, incomplete tasks, or substantial work output, you are sending the message that these qualities are acceptable.

Nurturing a culture where employees are encouraged to be curious and to provide support to one another leads to increased work productivity and heightened staff morale. It urges them to grow and develop because they know they have the support they need, and will be held accountable for identified deliverables.

How to achieve accountability

There are a number of benefits to having accountability within your workplace. It ensures people follow through on their commitments, it provides a platform for giving and receiving feedback, it allows you to learn and grow from experiences and it prevents small problems from turning into larger problems.

But how do you implement a culture of accountability in your business?

Accountability works best when someone is nominated to take action. It may be a one-on-one mentor relationship, or it may be a designated person within your company who is involved in the various meetings that take place. This role isn’t one of “traffic cop”, but rather someone who comes alongside their colleagues to work together to ensure the relevant tasks are completed.

Encouraging your staff to get an accountability partner is a great place to start. Someone who they trust will give them honest feedback and who they feel comfortable giving feedback in return. If you have teams within your organisation, allocate a member of the team to be the accountability spokesperson.

Set the expectation with them that they are responsible for ensuring actions are followed through.

This is a powerful tool that changes the dynamic of your business.

Shaun Langdon, CEO, www.strategem.com.au

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