“To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.” -Plutarch.
Ownership is one of the best things an entrepreneur can learn. It can sometimes be a painful lesson but it means that when mistakes happen, they become a genuine education, rather than a source of negativity.
Therefore it’s in every business’ interest, from start-up to multinational, to strive toward accountability. This accountability should inform every aspect of the business and be bound up in people’s roles and responsibilities. This will foster a culture of willingness to take ownership of missteps, overlaps, gaps, deficits and failures.
Within entrepreneurship and business management, this may mean owning issues caused by subordinates or having a workplace culture that encourages staff to be more accountable for their actions.
It’s important to be clear there’s a big difference between accountability and blame. Owning issues involves calmly acknowledging them and then immediately moving towards positive and constructive paths forwards.
The benefits of this approach include building trust, practising true leadership and creating transparency and control. So, how does accountability contribute positively to building these values?
Your workforce, customers and suppliers don’t expect you to be superhuman.
However, they do expect to be able to trust you and trust is one of the most valuable commodities there is. It is something that takes a long time to build but can potentially take a very short amount of time to destroy. A culture of accountability can help maintain your businesses hard earned trust by ensuring that businesses risks aren’t avoided or responsibility ignored.
Take a simple example that anybody with an ecommerce business will have likely experienced, the missed delivery deadline. Suppose you explain the reasons for it and admit error (with dignity and no finger-wagging at your employees or suppliers). In that case, a customer is far more likely to accept the problem and continue to trust your company.
Taking ownership – being accountable – is also tied up in being a good leader. Leadership includes management, but is also much more than this. Leadership is about building a supportive and empowered culture that values honesty, openness and respect.
That, in turn, gets the best from employees, underpinning job satisfaction and productivity.
Research has shown that employees who feel engaged and inspired are 125% more productive. You can seriously undermine leadership if you prove disingenuous or put too much responsibility on the shoulders of subordinates. Issues left undiscussed or ignored are equally likely to lead to demotivated, unrecognised, or even disillusioned staff. This element is especially true if they believe they are ‘paying’ for mistakes at the management level.
A culture of ownership and accountability means a happier, more engaged and more productive team.
Transparency and control
Promoting ownership – without shame or blame – makes it far more likely your team will come to you with issues much earlier. Staff will also be more willing to bring improvement ideas and innovations to you if assured of a non-judgemental and open-minded response.
The opposite is an insidious silence that can leave issues undetected or inadequately dealt with. Your productivity, waste and cost management and safety record could all be damaged in small increments, as no one wants to ‘raise their hand’.
Building a culture of accountability and ownership isn’t easy but such a culture is crucial to building an effective business that and a team that can make things happen.
So how do you build accountability in your business? As with many other good business practices, owning issues – and showing the positive power of ownership – starts at the top. If you can lead your business with these values, they will naturally influence the wider culture of your business and deliver positive change.