[Editor's Note: True Accountability can be the biggest impediment to strong results in a company. In Parts I and II in this series , we asked the questions: "Is a Lack of Accountability a Problem in My Organization?" and "Am I Part of the Accountability Problem in My Company?" In Part III, we addressed "Starting Down the Path to Greater Accountability" In this issue, we outline the top 5 accountability pitfalls that can kill company performance. I hope you find this useful. -dpm]
The Continuing Quest for Accountability - Part IV
Top 5 Accountability Pitfalls
When people are held accountable - to themselves and their stakeholders - good things get done. According to Steve Tobak of Moneywatch, here are the top five "accountability" pitfalls that business leaders and executives typically fall into, in my experience. Some of them don't even appear to be accountability-related on the surface, which is why they're so insidious. If you want a high-performance management team, make sure you avoid them:
Unclear responsibility. Misalignment of Goals. This is probably the most common pitfall. Show me an organization and I'll show you managers with misaligned goals and vague responsibility. Two people shouldn't have the same functional responsibility or own the same goal. If you do that, you're asking for things to fall in the crack. That doesn't preclude "matrix management"; the trick is to ensure goals and responsibilities are properly aligned. It can be done.
No follow up. Poor execution. This is practically an epidemic in organizations. Executives are great at coming up with goals, strategies, even metrics. Unfortunately, they're also notoriously bad at following up. I don't care how driven and entrepreneurial executives are; without follow up, nothing good happens. Companies must have a relatively objective and, sorry to say this, strict process for both setting and scoring management performance metrics.
Compensation plans that reward poor performance. Closely related to the "no follow up" problem, most companies have terrible executive compensation plans. Maybe 1 in 10 actually rewards the right behavior and has enough teeth to foster accountability. The problem? The bar for making gobs of money is set too low, and there's not enough difference between success and failure, plain and simple.
Management bad behavior. When it comes to management behavior, most executives and boards just look the other way. That lack of accountability plays a key role in business failures because dysfunctional leadership results in bad strategic decision-making and poor employee performance and execution. Granted, coming up with metrics for this sort of thing is challenging, but I think "360s" are pretty effective.
Flawed company strategy. This is rarely seen as an accountability problem, but it is. When company executives push a flawed strategy, two things inevitably happen. First, smart people in the organization call them on it - publicly or privately - word gets around, and management credibility suffers, big-time. Second, folks will start covering their behinds, pointing fingers, acting passive aggressively - all sorts of dysfunctional behavior that wreaks havoc with organizational performance.Not surprisingly, I find that management teams at consistently successful companies make accountability a priority and, therefore, avoid these pitfalls. It take a real commitment of precious management time and resources. But not only is the payoff worth it, it's a necessity in our hypercompetitive business world.
This may sound strange coming from a firm that stresses strategic growth and execution, but it will do little good to establish strategies, action plans, and metrics without accountability. Because - without accountability, the results will be more of the same - disappointing results. The data shows that companies with true accountability greatly outperform those with a lack of accountability. Don't let another year go by. Neglecting the next steps in your company's growth and maturity can be very short-sighted. The next downturn is coming - possibly starting as early as Q4 of 2019. Get prepared. You need to have your company firing on all cylinders.