Build An Accountable, Responsible Team

Follow these five steps to empower employees to be accountable and responsible contributing members of your team

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What drives you crazy about managing your company? Is it trying to get paid, dealing with customers, having to cut your prices, scheduling workers, or making sure everything is done right? My guess is that dealing with employees is what keeps you up at night. You worry about getting them to be accountable, mistake-free, safe, customer friendly, and do what you expect them to do.

Your ongoing challenge is to develop disciplined, results-oriented, responsible employees. You struggle with getting them to show up on time, care about quality, be productive, and improve your bottom line. I often get this question when I speak at conventions: "I'm just a small company. How can I get my employees to do what I want them to do? An employee mistake can cost me everything, so I can't let my people make any big decisions." To overcome this accountability and responsibility problem, consider these three challenges:

Do you chase wheelbarrows?

I was visiting a construction jobsite and noticed one of our long-time laborers cleaning the slab. He swept trash into his shovel and then walked about 100 yards to the trash bin. He repeated this for several minutes until I finally stopped and asked: "Where's your wheelbarrow?" He said his boss didn't give him one. I then asked if a wheelbarrow would make the job go faster. He said yes, but his boss had not given him one to use that day.

I looked for the foreman and superintendent to no avail. So I went to the storage bin, unlocked it and got a wheelbarrow for the laborer to use. I solved the problem, or did I? Have you ever fixed something yourself but not addressed the bigger issue? The real problem was that the laborer was not trusted or given responsibility to think, make decisions, choose the right tools, or be responsible to achieve results. He wasn't accountable for anything.

Are you a firefighter?

Do you ever feel like a firefighter running from one fire to another with a garden hose trying to put out everyone else's fires? Do you do work all day doing your employees' jobs and then work all night doing yours? Your employees can handle more responsibility, you just don't give it to them. In a recent poll of field employees 66 percent were asked to make decisions, but only 14 percent felt empowered and trusted to make decisions. They were afraid their boss would yell at them for mistakes. Therefore, employees didn't take on more than they had to. The root of most people problems is the boss, not the employee.

Who owns the problem?

When the boss owns every problem, only they can solve it correctly. When you solve other people's problems, they rely on you to solve all their problems. When people aren't responsible for anything, how can they be responsible for solutions? Do your employees rely on you to solve their problems? When you solve employees' problems, they can't grow and improve. When you treat employees like children who can't think, they act like children and only do what they've been told to do. It's your job to train your employees and make them responsible. You have to let go to grow.

You can't do it all yourself

Successful business owners quickly realize they can't do it all themselves and need empowered people they can trust if they want to grow. The number one reason employees don't accept accountability or responsibility is that they don't know exactly what you want them to do. The number two reason is because their boss doesn't trust them.

5 Steps to Develop Accountable Responsible Employees

  1. Establish clear expectations and understanding

    Tell them, show them and draw visual pictures to make sure they get it. A good leader holds meetings to explain how to do the job, the implementations plan, procedures, and productivity requirements.

  2. Create a scorecard and tracking system

    To make people accountable and responsible, there must be ongoing project targets to track, review and measure like a scoreboard. Team members need to know where they stand in order to meet the goals and expectations.

  3. Define levels of authority

    Which employees can buy materials or tools, and how much can they spend without approval from their boss? With defined rules and parameters, employees can become empowered team leaders. Given little or no authority, they are unaccountable and unresponsible.

  4. Be a coach, not a controller

    People want to be coached, not controlled. The best coach usually wins the most games. 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, the less they have to think and learn.

  5. Celebrate and reward success

    You know what else good coaches do? They regularly recognize, praise and encourage their players. Make it your priority to look for the good instead of point out the bad. Start weekly recognition programs for people who save the most money, do something excellent, have the best attitude, make the best decisions, or go the extra mile for the customer. Some weeks you decide the winners, and other weeks let your employees choose.

By implementing these simple steps your people will grow and want to take on more responsibility. The key is your decision to make it happen by letting go of accountability. Get started right now by taking three things off of your 'to-do' list and delegate them to someone else.

George Hedley is a professional business coach, popular speaker and best-selling author of "Get Your Business to Work!" and "The Business Success Blueprint For Contractors" available at his online bookstore. He works with business owners to build profitable growing companies. E-mail: [email protected] to request your free copy of "Winning Ways To Win More Work!" or sign up for his free monthly e-newsletter. To hire George to speak, be part of his ongoing BIZCOACH program, or join one of his ongoing Roundtable Peer Groups, call (800) 851-8553 or visit