Lack of accountability is the silent killer of growth – and by far the #1 growth roadblock among small and mid-sized companies. The fundamental reason is simple: as long as you (or your leaders) play the role of the “accountability police officer” in your company, you won’t have much time left to grow your business. You want to build an accountability system that frees you up, so that you can focus on accelerating growth.

This is the last article of a series of three articles built around the three essential aspects of creating a culture of accountability:

  • Set up the right accountability systems (which is the topic of this article).
  • Display the right behaviors and culture at the leadership level (which you can find here).
  • Have the right people in the right seats (which you can find here).

Build an accountability system to support stronger growth

Lack of accountability from your team is not a reflection of their lack of motivation, professionalism, or intelligence. Often it is a sign that you have not put the right accountability system in place yet. Most companies haven’t, which is why so many fail to achieve their annual objectives (and grow slower than their potential). The good news is that since the bar is so low, gradual improvements in this regard will give you an edge over your competitors and enable you to grow faster and with less pain.

The most impactful pillars of an accountability system are:

  • Clear goals and priorities.
  • Clear metrics and KPIs.
  • Metronome-like meeting rhythm.

Clarify quarterly goals and priorities: decide what NOT to do

Based on your annual strategy you want to identify 2 to 3 quarterly priorities that will have the biggest impact in Q1 to move closer to your annual goals. This is great, but not sufficient: you also need to align views with your leadership team on what NOT do to – otherwise, you will end up spinning your wheels and accomplishing nothing of significance.

Being clear as a leadership team on your quarterly priorities will protect you (and your team) from the Shiny Object Syndrome – and will help you stay the course in 2023. Quarter after quarter, you will move closer to your annual goals.

Define clear action plans and metrics: 13-week plans

How do you know, every week, whether you are on track and whether you will achieve your quarterly priority by the end of the quarter? This is why I ask my clients to quickly put together a 13-week action plan for each of their quarterly priorities (since there are 13 weeks in one quarter).

This will enable them to track their progress weekly and take corrective actions when needed – without drama – to greatly enhance their chances of getting their priorities done by the end of the quarter – and hence their chances of reaching their strategic goals by the end of 2023.

Set up a metronome-like meeting rhythm

“Bad meetings are the birthplace of unhealthy organizations,” as author Patrick Lencioni put it. Good meetings are absolutely essential to hold people accountable and keep everyone on the same page.

Your weekly leadership team meeting, if well run, is the perfect forum to have weekly conversations about the status of your quarterly priorities (based on your 13-week plans) and which corrective actions are needed for each of the priorities – simply because plans never happen as planned. Since it is much easier to take small corrective actions, you want these conversations to take place on a weekly basis. Without these weekly conversations, you may need to take much more disruptive corrective actions at the end of the quarter.

You know that you have bad meetings when: 

  • You complain about meetings being boring or ineffective, and you long for the end of them.
  • You allow you / your people to skip them from time to time for “more important” work.
  • You sometimes come out of a meeting, not quite sure what has been decided.

Meetings are one of the very few tools that you have, as a CEO, to influence things in your company – so you need to become a Meeting Black Belt. Read here about how to run meetings that will enhance accountability.

Practically speaking: what can you start doing today?

  • Ask each of your leaders, individually, what the company’s top 3 priorities should be in Q1 2023. If the answers are not aligned, you know that you have a problem. Gather your leadership team to align views on Q1 priorities.
  • Once you have clarity and alignment on your Q1 priorities, ask yourself:
    • Who is accountable for each of these priorities?
    • Has the team developed a 13-week plan for each of these priorities, so that you can easily monitor, week after week, that you are on the right track?

I work with growth-minded CEOs who are frustrated by the way their business is growing. Often they spend their days fighting fires – typically a sign that their company has outgrown their management approach. When they do business between the US and Belgium / The Netherlands / Luxembourg / France, cultural differences and long distances make their growth roadblocks even more painful. In short, they feel stuck. I know the feeling: I have been in their shoes when I was running a business that we turned around from sales decline to double-digit business growth.

As a business coach my passion is to help leadership teams define their actionable business growth strategy, create a culture of accountability and effective strategy execution, and become better leaders – so they can grow faster and with less pain.

If you too want to grow faster and with less pain, contact me now: