Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Key to Entrepreneurial Success: A Culture of Accountability and Empowerment

In my experience as an entrepreneur, I have been exposed to various management styles and methods of building companies.  Through this experience, I have become a firm believer that to develop and sustain a high performance organization, you must have A CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND EMPOWERMENT. 

ACCOUNTABILITY
The concept of accountability is so basic one would assume that it goes without saying.  However, it's quite common in companies large and small for people to consistently make commitments that they don't meet.  In those cases, they are not holding themselves truly accountable for delivering.  It's obvious that there are certain individuals who just don't "have what it takes".  They may try hard but that's not enough.  But what about those individuals who are truly talented and who have the potential to deliver great things but are not able to meet commitments?  Why would anyone do such a thing?  It stands to reason that failing to meet commitments will, in the end, cause that individual to be fired or at a minimum will damage their reputation.  In my experience, this type of chronically bad behavior can be caused by a number of things with the most toxic being company leadership that dictates "fairy tale" goals for talented individuals to hit that completely defy the laws of physics.  In these cases, the leader is typically convinced that he is doing the right thing by setting and publicizing to key stakeholders that the company will meet certain targets without the buy-in of team members.  That leader will then turn to the company and demand that they meet the goal while frowning upon any feedback to the contrary.  Therefore, the talented individuals who are part of that company will claim they can hit the goals that have been set for them to appease the leader of the organization even though it is not possible.  This cycle repeats and I'm sure you know how it plays out - the talented individual, despite an Herculean effort, does not deliver on the commitment.  The company fails to meet milestones consistently.  And, because that individual believes in being accountable, he ultimately burns out and quits to move on to a more fulfilling and successful opportunity. 

EMPOWERMENT
Empowerment is required for a business to grow and thrive.  You must hire talented people and empower them to deliver great value by setting stretch goals they buy into, giving them the tools they need to be successful, then giving them room to make it happen.  If any one of these items are missing, you will not achieve sustainable success.

What do you think about building high performance organizations?  Are accountability and empowerment the two most important characteristics to you?