Grow your team: 5 ways to improve accountability as a small business owner and leader

blog Apr 25, 2023

In our experience, working with over 1,000 small business owners, most leadership teams struggle with accountability. 

The lack of accountability on leadership teams is not because you have incapable people or because they lack the right motivation. 

The issue in most cases is a lack of frameworks, clear communication and effective decision-making processes.

Here are my five top fixes for leadership teams struggling with accountability, and delivering results consistently. 

1. Develop a clear strategy

Before you can make any sort of progress, you need to know where you want to go. 

A vision!

Without a strategy with a set of objectives and decisions on what you want to achieve (and not achieve), you’ll go around in circles wasting time, money and energy.

We like to say that you can climb any mountain you want, just not every mountain you want. 

And if half your team is climbing Everest, and the other half Kilimanjaro, you won’t get very far.

Make sure you have a strategic plan and a strategic planning process that allows you to collect key insights about your customer and competitors, to craft a differentiated position in your market. 

Find a handful of attributes you’ll be known for, and then focus your operations on delivering on those promises and provide an amazing client experience.

More importantly, identify all those things you are not going to do so you can focus your time, energy and money.


2. Get buy-in from your leadership team

Sometimes, the problem is not the strategy, rather the commitment to the strategy.

Generally, the problem is that the leadership team either don’t really understand the why behind the strategy, or just don’t feel ownership of it.

Strategy development should instead be a process that involves key stakeholders with unique insights. 

Your A-Players in particular, want to have input and influence over their work and effort.

Including the right people in the process will ensure you’re working with the right information. 

This results in decisions and directions that everyone feels bought in to.

Engagement, which leads to motivation, then accountability.

3. Have clear job descriptions

It’s impossible to win a game, if you don’t know the rules. 

Yet, too many small businesses have people in roles that have no clear description of responsibilities, outcomes and measures of success. 

This means that they don’t know what they should focus on, and nobody else knows what to expect from them. 

Setup to fail?

Good, clear job descriptions for everyone on your team means that their boundaries are clear, which drives accountability.

Further, these must be reviewed and revised as your business grows and evolves. 

We recommend you review these roles quarterly, and catch any gaps or overlaps quickly, well before they become a problem.

4. Set absolute priorities

A strategy is worthless without a good execution process. 

“A strategy without action is a dream.”

You need a system for taking strategies and turning them into sets of actions with timeframes. 

The challenge often is that there is always a lot to do in the whirlwind of running a business; usually, far more to do than there is time. 

To create focus, you need not just a list of priorities but an absolutely prioritised list.

Each quarter, we recommend teams identify the top three strategic priorities for the company for the next 90 days, assigning ownership for each. 

Then we have each manager identify their personal top three priorities in order of importance.

Nobody should work on a lower priority item until they have done everything possible on the higher priorities.

5. Clarify success criteria

It’s impossible to deliver something when you don’t know what success looks like. 

The devil is in the details when it comes to accountability. 

Creating clear and measurable success criteria is key to driving results. 

Don’t just say “hire a new program manager” by the end of the quarter.

Clarify if that means they have an offer letter in hand, or if they have accepted an offer, or if they have started their first day. 

Details matter, and expectations need to be set at the beginning of the time period.

Creating a culture of accountability is not about rewards and punishments. 

It’s about clarity and setting challenging but achievable goals for leaders and managers. 

It’s a muscle that develops and improves over time. 

The trick is to understand that it’s not just about hiring good people. 

Great leaders in business know that accountability is a process that can be honed and improved over time.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

In our ‘Business Transformation Program’ we show you the best strategic framework tool to use. This tool is simple, powerful and free. Join the ‘Business Transformation Program’ waitlist.