THE BLOG
11/26/2014 03:59 pm ET Updated Sep 24, 2015

5 Ways to Raise the Accountability Bar Inside Your Company

It's one thing to create a grand plan to grow your company, it is a whole other thing to get your team consistently executing.

The most essential "in the trenches" key to execution is to raise the accountability bar inside your company so that each team member feels like what he or she does is seen, noticed, and applauded.

Here are 5 ways to create a culture of execution and accountability inside your company:

1. Be on time, all the time.
We have to start with first things first. Be on time--all the time. This simple behavior symbolizes to your team that you take your commitments seriously and live with integrity.

Sure it's easy to slip, your team always seems willing to wait. But the message being late sends hurts your credibility inside your company.

When you take appointments and deadlines seriously, so will your team. It is one behavior with a huge return on investment in terms of modeling accountability inside your company.

Too many companies implement respect in a hierarchical manner. Your time is not more important than an employee's time or a customer's time in their eyes. Being on time shows respect, and it makes a big difference to the receiver.

And of course you can rationalize why you didn't meet a stated deadline and no one will challenge you, but they will model the behavior you show them. So model the high standard of being on time, all the time.

2. Clarify all action items and deliverables in writing at the end of every meeting.
One of the biggest reasons things get missed is because they weren't handed off cleanly to begin with. Many times the receiving party doesn't know just what they've been asked to do, or in fact they may not know that they've been asked to do something at all.

Hence the need to clarify all action items and deliverables in writing. Not only does this make sure that you've captured all your action items, but it is also a powerful way to role model how you want your team to behave.

Wherever possible, number the commitments so that they are absolutely clear.

At your next meeting this might sound like: "Okay, summing up here's what I've committed to: I've got three action items here. Item one is to review the Johnson Proposal and make a yes or no decision by this Friday end of business. Item two is to give feedback via email to Carl about the new orientation process. And item three is to send out the date of our next quarterly planning session to the exec team by noon tomorrow. (I encourage you to visibly write each of them down in your notes as your meeting progresses). Now Cheryl, I have down that you've committed to two items..."

Teach your team to employ this same skill with their staff. It's a best practice that companies that execute adopt.

3. Clearly state what you can't commit to so that you don't lower the accountability bar in your company by missing a "phantom deliverable."
"Phantom deliverables" are those things that the other person thinks you committed to but you didn't.

As a leader, you need to exhibit great communication by making any phantom deliverables you see come out of a meeting explicit. That way if you can commit to that deliverable, you do so, and if you can't, you clarify that you are not committing to it.

4. Hold Your Focus Long Enough to Make Progress and Reassure Your Team
There is nothing more frustrating to your team than a CEO who constantly shifts the playing field under their feet, one day focused on X, the next on Y.

There is a dynamic balance between flexibility and momentum. Flexibility says, "Be willing to adjust to the market." And, "Seize opportunities." Momentum says, "I'm working - feed me." And, "Support my successes and let me build on what's working."

Obviously you need both as you grow your company.

You need flexibility so you are nimble and move quickly to take advantage of opportunities.

You need momentum so you have time to hit critical mass and build the infrastructure to sustain your growth.

5. Credibility is a marathon, not a sprint.
You likely noticed that all four of the above accountability suggestions are for YOU the CEO and leader of your company. Accountability is a function of culture, and culture starts at the top.

It doesn't help if you take off out of the gate gung ho in your desire to model accountability, only to let it slip a few weeks later. If you want accountability to be a real and lasting part of your company culture, you've got to maintain your behavior over time.

Good luck applying these five powerful accountability principles to grow your company.

For more on growing your company, get our free tool kit with 21 in-depth video trainings to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.