Below is an excerpt from our book Startups Made Simple: How to Start, Grow and Systemize Your Dream Business. Learn more about the book here.
Leadership should be easy if you have a clear vision and you communicate clearly to your team what needs to get done and it will just get done, right? Wrong. Welcome to human behavior in the 21st century. You would be amazed at how hard this can be in the modern workplace. Business is suffering from an accountability crisis in my opinion. It is sometimes hilarious the extent to which some employees will go to avoid accountability or even making the most simple of decisions and how leaders let them get away with it.
Remember, if your employees are also not owners in the company, there’s little motivation for them to work beyond the bare minimum unless they are incentivized in other ways. I would estimate that 80–90% of employees do not like to be held accountable or go beyond the bare minimum. This is not me being mean or pessimistic, it’s just the new normal and the reason why the definition of a good leader can be different depending on if you’re an owner or employee. Employees often think someone holding them accountable is being a jerk, or at best, too demanding. Ask anyone who manages people for a living, and you will not likely get much disagreement on this.
Most employees don’t understand the sometimes existential terror of owning a business, making payroll, the threat of lawsuits, being responsible for the livelihood of others, and the dozens of various other issues business owners go through. A lot of people only want their paycheck and to “clock out” at the end of day and not think about work. (And business owners are certainly jealous of this some days!) There’s nothing wrong with this, but we do need to find a good middle-ground between “clocking out” and having basic accountability for the job during working hours. We don’t expect them to be responsible for the company, just accountable for their particular job so you can count on them to get the job done.
Building an Accountable Team
How do we fix this? Almost every modern book, article, or guru tends to hold the employer responsible for this and recommends all kinds of engagement tools to make people want to do their jobs. I’m sympathetic to this mindset, especially in poorly run companies where you have dysfunctional management, unclear goals, or five different bosses.
However, I’m going to recommend something radical for a startup with limited resources: Hire people with an accountability mindset from the beginning and then build accountability into your company. You don’t have the time or resources to prod or beg people to do their jobs and deliver on promises; you need people who can get things done correctly and on time.
A depressing fact for employees who don’t like accountability is that outsourcing and other market pressures are only going to make jobs more competitive, so there will be little room to hire people who can’t get the job done. There are literally millions of educated, English-speaking people coming online every year from all over the world, and they’re incredibly eager to work. There are now overseas accountants that charge $5/hour online, yes $5/hour, which is one tenth what I used to pay a bookkeeper just a few years ago.
While I don’t personally prefer this, in the fragile startup phases, you sometimes need to look overseas for the help you need if you cannot find it or afford it domestically. Personally, I recommend building accountability into your organization, and if you can hire great domestic people, they will outperform the overseas employees, and many times the cultural fit is so much better that it’s worth the added expense. Either way, there’s little excuse for hiring staff who don’t believe in accountability.
This was an excerpt from our book Startups Made Simple: How to Start, Grow and Systemize Your Dream Business. Learn more about the book here or see our previous excerpts here.
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