THE BLOG

How to Become Accountable in 2 Easy Steps

09/27/2012 01:49 EDT | Updated 11/20/2012 05:12 EST

Several months ago our 2-year old microwave oven suddenly stopped working. Despite ongoing correspondence, numerous service calls, two conversations with the store owner, one loaner, and what can only be called a comedy of errors, we are still waiting for the repair to be complete. Four weeks ago we were given a promise that the required parts would finally arrive in 7 - 10 days. We haven't heard another word since.

As a result of this fiasco, we have completely lost faith in the company that sold us the appliance. Through it all they have offered nothing more than lame excuses, and no one has taken responsibility for the ongoing delays.

As employees and business owners, we each have a duty to honour the commitments we make, whether that means being on time, completing tasks efficiently or fessing up when things don't go as planned. Every time we take responsibility for our actions we enhance our level of integrity, leading us to gain the reputation of being reliable while earning the respect of the people we work with and serve. This element of professionalism is dependent on one critical component: accountability.

Accountability is a currency you can take to the bank, because it's the component that links professional behavior to customer satisfaction. Quality will always matter. Coupling quality with credibility provides a double corporate-whammy that keeps your clients coming back for more.

These days, with so many providers in the marketplace, consumers are much more likely to invest their hard-earned money in companies that can be trusted to do what they say they're going to do, when they say they're going to do it. We're tired of chasing after the products and services we've bought and paid for, and most of us simply don't have time to wait at home for the repair person or installer to show up "sometime between 8 am and noon."

From an employee perspective, accountability is what helps us procure pay raises, receive new opportunities and acquire increased responsibilities. Business owners value team members who take their work - and their word - seriously.

So what do you do if you supervise someone who isn't accountable? How do you manage people who always blame others, constantly make excuses, and refuse to take responsibility for their actions?

It starts with clearly stated expectations. Let people know, in no uncertain terms, what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. This exchange should include specifics such as dates, deliverables and details. Document your mutual expectations so that you have written confirmation of agreed upon roles and responsibilities.

Allow people the autonomy to make reasonable decisions on the company's behalf. When employees feel like they have no say in matters, they will often have no choice but to make excuses for why things can't be done. To accomplish this, you must create clear and open lines of communication. Be available to answer questions and guide your staff when they need or ask for help.

Set a great example. Consistently demonstrate, through your own words, actions and behaviours, what accountability looks like. Double standards are a thing of the past; corporate success relies on your ability to show others that accountability is one of your personal core values.

Regularly follow up with people to ensure that their commitments are being honoured. When you notice they are, share positive feedback reinforcing your appreciation for the level of productivity you're seeing. If timelines are not being met, however, you must have frank, civil conversations reviewing your expectations and outlining the consequences of unmet obligations.

Accountability is a respected guiding principle that can easily be developed by anyone who follows these two simple steps:

Step 1: Say you're going to do something.

Step 2: Do it.