When I speak at conventions, I often ask construction business owners and managers to tell me what their perfect business would be like. The common answer is a company without people! But the second most important ingredient to business success is finding and keeping excellent people (number one is customers). Without good help, you’ll never make any profit or be able to grow your business.
Are you a firefighter?
Do you ever feel like a firefighter running from one fire to another with only a garden hose? Do you feel like all you do is put out everyone else’s fires? Do you do your employee’s work all day and yours all night? Do you wish your people were more accountable? Why don’t they take on more responsibility?
In a recent poll of field employees, 66% were asked to make decisions. But only 14% of them feel empowered and trusted to make the decision. They’re afraid their boss will yell at them if they make the wrong choices or a mistake. So rather than risk it, employees don’t take on more than they have to. The root of most people problems is the boss, not the employee.
Who owns the problem?
When the boss owns every problem, only he or she can solve them correctly. When you solve other people’s problems for them, they rely on you to solve all their problems. When people aren’t actually responsible to solve problems, how can they be responsible for solutions?
Do your employees rely on you to solve their problems? Do they depend on you to make most decisions for them? Each person who works for you wants to be accountable and responsible for some part of their job. It’s your job to let go and get them doing what you pay them to do. Without empowered people you’ll never grow your business.
You can’t do it all yourself!
Small business owners start out as the sole proprietor making every decision. Successful business owners realize they can’t do it all themselves and seek people they can trust, delegate to and grow with. Look at the bigger companies. They have levels of responsible people who make most everyday business decisions. The owner had to decide he wasn’t the only person on the planet who was smart enough to make decisions.
The number one reason employees don’t accept accountability or responsibility is that they don’t know exactly what you want them to do. You tell them, but they really don’t fully understand exactly what you really want. So they’re afraid to step out and go for it for fear of their boss’s reaction when things aren’t done the way he wanted it done.
The number two reason employees don’t accept responsibility is that their boss doesn’t really trust them with making decisions. Do you tell your people what to do and then say, “Before you do that, check with me first”?
5 Steps To Make People Accountable & Responsible
1. Establish clear expectations & understanding
The first step is to make people clearly understand what you want them to do. When asked, over 66% of employees don’t know specifically what they’re asked to do, what’s expected or what results their boss wants them to accomplish and by when. Go ask your people the top three things you want them to accomplish today. Will they give you the answer you think they should? Probably not!
To ensure your people know what you want, tell them, show them and then draw a visual picture to explain it again. People remember what they see, not what they hear.
For example, if you want your crew to complete forming 200 lineal feet of site walls and have them ready for pouring concrete by Friday, what would you do? Poor managers take on the supervisor’s job themselves and micro-manage their foreman two or three times a day. They make sure things are progressing properly, order all materials, make the necessary phone calls, and schedule the required labor and equipment. In other words, they don’t let their foreman make any decisions about the actions required to achieve the desired end results.
A good leader would call a team meeting and help the foreman create an action plan for the crew.
2. Create scorecard & tracking system
In order to make people accountable and responsible, there must be simple milestones and deadlines to achieve and track. Just like in baseball, there are nine innings and statistics for runs, hits, errors, walks, strikeouts, home runs, and runs batted in. Your team members need to know how they stand in order to meet your goals and expectations. Without a tracking system, people can’t be accountable for results without daily knowledge of their current progress towards achieving the end result.
I created a “Hardhat Scorecard” to track the progress of job activities for your team to set and review on a daily or weekly basis. (Email your address to email@example.com to receive a free scorecard). At the beginning of each project phase, get the team together to discuss the goals you want to track and achieve. Using the example of forming a wall, the target would be 100% ready to pour on Friday.
The three sub-goals can be foundations, forming and rebar installation.
3. Define levels of authority
To avoid confusion, misunderstandings and build trust with people, they must clearly know what their level of authority is. Can they buy materials or tools? How much can they spend without approval from their boss? Can they commit the company or hire and fire? What decisions are they authorized to make on their own?
I learned a long time ago my people make better decisions than I do. They’re more careful with my money than I am. Given clear rules and parameters, your people will become great team leaders and empowered employees.
Given no or little authority keeps them unaccountable and un-responsible. What’s your spending limit for your foremen without checking with you? Is it more than $0? When I increased the maximum spending limit for my foreman to $1,000, they were able to handle most of the little day to day decisions without my involvement. This allowed them to grow and become fully accountable team leaders.
4. Be a coach, not a controller
People want to be coached, not controlled. The best coach usually wins the most games. When your crew isn’t accountable or responsible, it’s a reflection of the coach’s total control dictatorship. The more you control, the less your people do for themselves. The more decisions you make for them, the less decisions they make. The more questions you answer for them every day, the less they have to think and learn. Is that what you want?
Good coaches train their people regularly. Have team meetings to review progress. Ask their team leaders to think for themselves and call their own plays. Even great head football coaches don’t call their own plays. Your job is to explain what’s expected and then provide feedback as to their progress. Use regular check-in times, follow-up and stay in touch. But don’t do it all for them!
5. Celebrate & reward success
When accountable and responsible people achieve great results they need to be thanked and rewarded. It’s your job as the leader to set up a fun, competitive and simple system to reward success. At your regular job or company meetings, pick out two people to recognize for a job well done.
Make it happen!
By implementing these simple steps, your people will grow and want to take on more responsibility. The key is your decision to make it your responsibility to let go of accountability. Get started right now by taking three things off of your ‘to-do’ list and delegate them to someone else. Enjoy!
As a professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker, George Hedley helps contractors increase profits, grow and get their companies to work! He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available at his online bookstore at www.HardhatPresentations.com. E-mail GH@HardhatPresentations.com to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, join a peer mastermind BIZGROUP, attend a BIZ-BUILDER Boot Camp, implement the BIZ-BUILDER BLUEPRINT, or get a discount for online courses at www.HardhatBizSchool.com.