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Published:September 2nd, 2009 17:03 EST
Who Holds You Accountable?

Who Holds You Accountable?

By Dan Goldberg

Accountability is an interesting phenomenon. Everybody wants some, most folks think that they can handle it, yet very few people know how to deal with it continually.


Much of the problems in business and life are intertwined with accountability or lack thereof. Ill-defined goals, unfocused people, inadequate communication, poorly thought out delegation, low self-esteem and sometimes just bad strategic management often lead to a break down of accountability.


When an organizational chart is muddled, the result is usually a bunch of people running around with an unclear understanding of who`s accountable to whom. And sadly, even when the chart is bold and clear, it`s not uncommon for an accountability vacuum to occur.


Why? Insufficient follow-through, passing off responsibility, only verbalizing goals, procedures and orders, and the lack of benchmarks, all lead to accountability problems.


It`s extremely important to understand that accountability comes from the top. How can anyone truly be held accountable if they aren`t given the proper instructions? But it happens all the time. The person in charge assumes that they`ve made themselves perfectly clear, even when they have contradicted themselves or given half the needed information. The usual scenario, when things don`t turn out the way they need to for a successful and timely conclusion, is a boss who freaks out, sulks or looks for new people.


Another reason is that most people are great at blaming someone else. My department isn`t filling the orders on time because I can`t get inspection to regularly let me know how things are going " or I`m done, it`s Jill I`m waiting on! " are all too common types of responses in corporate America, not to mention your house!


And most people are also great at giving orders. Well, I told him I needed it by 5:00! "


There is an effective and efficient way to hold everyone accountable. It starts with making sure everyone in the loop is given a full and complete understanding of what, when and sometimes how tasks and/or projects are to be done. This must be done in writing!


Most companies are run through departments and until every department understands what the other departments are doing the company runs a risk of severe problems.


The first and most important phase of writing starts in meetings that are attended by the President and CEO and all the department heads, or division presidents or however you signify those upper level executives on your organizational chart (we`ll call them DHs for simplification purposes), no matter what size your company is.


In the first meeting the CEO or President should clarify to all in attendance what he or she sees as the goals of the company for the next year, three years and five years.

You would be amazed how many DHs do not know what the long-range and short-range goals of the company are as seen through the eyes of its leader. This alone can be a major milestone!


The next ingredient is to have all the DHs spell out what they see as their responsibilities and goals and ask the other DHs to participate in each person`s goals and responsibilities description as well. You`ll soon find out where the misunderstandings are.

And it will help to clarify each DHs position.


Then the DHs and the President/CEO should write, as homework, how they see their department`s responsibilities and tasks in reaching the outlined goals. Everyone must get a copy of everyone else`s homework for review previous to the next meeting.


The homework is then read aloud to everyone at the next meeting. There has to be total communication and understanding between departments. There should be no secrets when it comes to company success. Open discussion then follows.


Once there are established and fully understood guidelines and benchmarks for each department, a system of monthly operating reports (MOR) is then put in place. The MOR template can be designed jointly by all the DHs or a designated group or person. The MOR should then be approved by all the DHs at the following meeting. Great suggestions come out of these sessions.


Once the MOR is approved everyone is then required to fill them out at the end of each month. These reports should spell out how the particular DH and his/her department has progressed in the quest toward reaching its and the company`s goals for that month (in the context of the larger goals).


The DH will almost certainly need input from his or her supervisors and other underlings in compiling the report. As a matter of fact DHs should have a departmental meeting explaining this new system to everyone and how their department is now accountable to everyone (on a broader scale).


Why? Because every DHs report is given to all the other DHs. They are all read before then next DH meeting. This way everyone knows what`s happening in everyone else department and everyone is accountable to each other for the company to reach its goals


MORs must be completed within a five-day period after month`s end and the next DH meeting should be held no longer than five days after that.


The MORs will be discussed. DHs from all the different areas will see how the functioning of their department affects everyone else. There will be less of a vacuum and territorial mentality. It`s amazing how an air of cooperation starts to manifest itself.


Everything is in writing. Communication is open. Departments and sub-departments see themselves as a part of a whole, responsible for the greater good of the organization. Accountability in this case rolls up and down hill! And everyone has participated in its origination and continues in its ongoing monitoring. Ultimately everyone and the organization wins!



Dan Goldberg is a keynote speaker and the President of Dan Goldberg Consulting, L.L.C. a training, coaching and business development firm located in the Philadelphia, PA area. He is the author of the book Lighten Up and Lead, " co-author (with Don Martin) of the book, The Entrepreneur`s Guide to Successful Leadership, " and author of The Six Steps To Solid Sales Success " and The Seven Elements of Successful Management " programs and the audio tape Growing A Successful Business ". You can contact him at, visit his website at or reach him at (215) 233-5352