Entrepreneurship 101: How to instil accountability?

American businessman Stephen R. Covey said, “Accountability breeds responsiveness.” And entrepreneurship demands accountability.

Accountability can be said to be the secret recipe for building a successful business. It helps to set clear expectations, create a culture where you meet your commitments and ultimately achieve success. It really is the tool that keeps an entrepreneur and his team focused on the end goal.

Being accountable means taking responsibility for one’s actions and consequences.

While it can be argued that an entrepreneur is responsible for the success or failure of their business, accountability, when established at all levels, has the power to decentralize responsibility, create more autonomy, and result in a comparatively smoother path to success respectively.

Setting tailored, achievable goals for each individual working in a startup helps the organization take one step closer to success.

When building a new product or starting a new business, one must focus on accountability and quality. Similarly, being accountable to one’s clients, customers, and even investors is crucial to building a sense of trust and confidence.

Manic RathiCo-founder and CEO of intelligent bus booking platform IntrCity, says: “It all starts with hiring…You have to hire the right people who appreciate the value of performance and the importance of their role in the organization.”

for this article Entrepreneurship 101we focus on how founders can take responsibility in their startups.

How to ensure accountability?

Your story surveyed entrepreneurs about their experiences and suggestions for instilling accountability in a startup. Here’s what they had to say:

Setting a good example

The easiest, yet crucial, way to improve accountability in the workplace is to hold yourself accountable first. Entrepreneurs should set the standards for the rest of the team.

Subodh Parulekar, co-founder and CEO of AFour Technologies, says, “Apathetic people are quick to point fingers or hesitate, saying, ‘That’s not my job.’ Leaders need to get the message across and lead by example that delivering quality solutions is important at all levels.”

Achievable goals instead of lofty dreams

While team members are expected to give 100 percent at work, it’s important to set boundaries as well. As a founder and leader, you need to set clear and achievable goals for your team. When everyone understands their respective responsibilities, it becomes easier to hold them accountable.

Every member of every team needs to be clear about what is expected of them. However, this does not end with the mere assignment of work. Leaders should always communicate to their team the importance of these responsibilities and the implications of not fulfilling them. “This automatically aligns with the psychology of the employee, which makes them realize their importance and feel accountable for their actions and responsibilities,” he says Mandeep ManochaCo-founder and CEO of Cashify.

Naman Shah |, Founder and CEO of NowPurchase, adds that when working on different tasks and projects, he asks the project owner to review the results themselves, rather than their manager or team lead. “There’s a significant increase in accountability when the project schedule is controlled by the project owner and not by someone delegating the project,” he says.

According to Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, “It’s more fun when people feel accountable and involved.”

Mandeep agrees, adding, “Defining specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for each employee gives them meaning. And that purpose will encourage them to be accountable and responsible to achieve those goals.”

Be transparent

It’s important to be honest and transparent with your team. Founders should share their stories of failure and how they can do better with their team. This not only creates a culture of openness, but also influences other team members to take responsibility. Entrepreneurs need to ensure this and should be followed at all levels and across teams. That is, each layer of the hierarchy must be aware of the goals of its higher and lower levels.

Sometimes people who work on smaller projects don’t understand how their work relates to the larger goal of the company. It is therefore important to make roles and responsibilities transparent at all levels.

Measure the impact

Once the goals are set, it is equally important to measure the impact of each employee’s contribution. By measuring impact, employees can find out where they made mistakes, how they can improve and move forward, and how they can optimize their work to meet set goals.

In addition, the measurement ensures that the employees achieve the goals assigned to them and remain accountable in the long term.

Regular constructive feedback

“To err is human. You fall only to get up and start over. Failure and mistakes teach you what no other teacher can,” says Mandeep.

Criticism, when constructive, is important for individual and team improvement. Regardless of whether it is words of encouragement or constructive criticism, entrepreneurs should give their feedback consistently and in clear, unambiguous sentences. Not only does this ensure team members aren’t caught off guard by suddenly disappointing feedback, but it also helps improve processes.

Likewise, people need to be encouraged when they do good work. Entrepreneurs need to recognize and Celebrate the progress of individuals. Motivation words help create a sense of responsibility in individuals and motivate others to do the same. Celebrating milestones helps teams stay motivated to do better, thereby making them more accountable.

How do startups bring accountability?

We asked startups about the different mechanisms they have in their respective startups to ensure accountability at all levels. Here’s what they think has worked for their companies:

Open working environment

At Celcius, the team follows you open working environment. This gives employees the freedom to develop themselves and to take ownership and responsibility for their work. The workplace acts as a support system for employees, giving them space to learn and flourish while holding themselves accountable and responsible for growth.

While software-based checks and balances were in place, the founders found that giving employees the freedom to work at their pace and allocating their time based on their workload proved most effective in order to instill the value of accountability and thereby contributed significantly to the growth of the company.

When employees see themselves as drivers of development in the company, they get used to working diligently.

Aside from that, Open delegation of tasks also helps facilitate transparency for everyone in the organization by ensuring roles and responsibilities are clear. When measuring the success of a particular task, founders can then easily assess who should be held accountable for which part of the process.

IntrCity has implemented a similar mechanism to ensure smooth functioning.

One function per person

Too many cooks spoil the broth. Similarly, too many people assigned to one job only leads to chaos and inefficiency.

Therefore, it is important to hold a single person accountable for a function or task, rather than holding multiple people or teams accountable for it. With NowPurchase, project owners and stakeholders are given the authority and autonomy to set their own deliverables and timelines. With sprint mechanisms, OKRs on a common platform where everyone can see which projects are being worked on and by whom and their schedules hold employees accountable.

At Celcius, performance appraisals are also conducted for the most senior management levels – COO, CFO and CEO. The employees also give their feedback on their experiences with the managers.

Avoid micromanagement

At Cashify, the founders are absolutely against micromanagement. Mandeep says entrepreneurs should trust their employees and the team they’ve built. In addition, founders should empower the team to take responsibility for tasks and make decisions.

“It may feel awkward for them, but eventually you’ll find that they’re beaming with responsibility for the responsibility that’s been given to them,” he adds.

Communication is key

At AFour Technologies, Subodh formally communicates expectations to relevant individuals and has regular touchpoints to provide feedback. Similarly, Naman arranges something every other day team standups where everyone talks about what they’re working on, where they’re stuck, and how they want to do it.

“This creates a first level of understanding of what’s going on, and this mechanism helps keep the schedule on track,” he adds.

Similarly, at Celcius, senior management meets twice a month to assess the performance of their respective departments. They hold each other accountable for the performance of their department and prospects for future improvement.

Sum up

Accordingly Courtney Lynchauthor of Spark: How to lead yourself and others to greater success“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to take responsibility before assigning blame.”

Many entrepreneurs forget that they are the role model for accountability and do not evaluate their activities to ensure they are consistently doing what they preach. Therefore, it is imperative for business owners to hold themselves accountable before holding their employees accountable.

Leading by example, providing transparency, and showing how one’s goals tie into organizational success are effective ways entrepreneurs can ensure their employees know they are accountable.

Click here to read previous Entrepreneurship 101 articles here.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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