Building muscle in your business with an accountability culture
Over the past few years, you’ve gotten “lean and mean.” You’ve cut costs and struggled to manage your contracting company’s working capital. You did all of these things and more in order to survive through the most challenging times you’ve ever experienced.
You trimmed the fat. Now that the economy is finally improving, it’s time to build the muscle in your company to “Get Fit for a Successful Future.” Although it may seem like a daunting task, there are several ways to pump up the muscle. One of the most effective is to establish an Accountability Culture.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Interestingly, if you were to ask your office staff and workers to define “accountability,” you may find that each person has a different definition. Some might not even have a clue. Begin to establish accountability by explaining its importance to your employees and help them to clearly understand its meaning.
In simple terms, accountability means that an individual is responsible for a positive result in their job role and accepts that responsibility. It also means that an individual must answer to you, their immediate boss, or project manager. In progressive contracting companies, however, employees are not only accountable for their performance, but they are also accountable to every member of their team. In addition, to help their company move forward, they are accountable to display initiative beyond their job description. For example, if an employee sees something that needs to be done, they just flex their muscles and do it. If someone needs help, they help. If they receive a problem, they own the problem. And, they take ownership for their role in the construction project.
A prime example of how to establish accountability comes from a smart construction contractor. Each year in January he holds an “Annual Kick-Off” meeting. He takes his employees to a restaurant with a private room and breaks them into groups of three. Then, he directs each team to create a list of where they think the entire company performed well the previous year. Then, together, they discuss how they can build upon what they did well. How well did we perform on our biggest project? How often did we have cost overruns? What complaints did we receive most often? Next, there is a discussion on how complaints might have been prevented, and what new policies and practices should they put into place to prevent complaints in the future.
TIME TO EXCEL
The next areas of discussion are to identify ways they exceeded customer expectations and how they can continue to exceed—even “Wow” the customer. Here’s where the combined brainpower of a team can come up with ideas and solutions to problems.
ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT?
Next is the most important part of the event. Together, the group compiles a list of what every employee should be accountable for. Agreement is reached. This contractor recognizes that employee involvement is what makes organizations fit for success, as people tend to “buy-into” what they help to create.
An “Accountability List” is compiled and given to each employee. Some departments are different than others. The owner directs them to look at that list often. Throughout the year, the owner and his project managers “talk up” the promises they made on their “Accountability List.”
ACCOUNTABILITY CREATES EXCELLENCE
Build the muscle and get fit for success. Define the meaning of accountability to your office staff and workers and ask what it means to them. Clarify the areas in which people will be held accountable. Expectations must be stated in a specific and clearly differentiating manner. To accomplish this and strive for excellence in all you do, define precisely whatever old behaviors or attitudes must be abandoned, and what new behaviors must be exhibited on a consistent basis.
Positive change does not occur overnight. At first, you may encounter some resistance and uncertainty from your team on whether establishing an accountability culture will benefit them as individuals. Set the tone and be the example for others to follow. Be relentless in your pursuit of accountability and excellence and consistently communicate its importance to others. If you are a great boss, where workers respect and admire you, and are happy to see you walk on the jobsite, your job will be easier.
Communicate your accountability list and customers service policies to new hires. Let them know they must agree to adhere to these, or they will not fit in with your culture and your team. Hire only the absolute best and most talented people who fully accept accountability. If you are a GC, make sure you meet with your subcontractors to go over your punch list. If they say, “Oh, come on! You’ve worked with us before, why do we need to meet?,” let them know this is a must to ensure service excellence.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In your efforts to establish an accountability culture, make your people feel valued. Ideally, management should be accountable to treat their employees as well as their best customers. Recognize it’s up to your entire leadership team to keep people motivated and help instill this culture. Appreciate them, while setting the highest standards for quality workmanship and superior customer service.
Treat employees with respect and take an interest in them. To support your accountability culture, provide a working environment that fosters dynamic leadership and the type of employee involvement where people have a say in establishing an accountability culture.
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About the Author: Christine Corelli is the author of five business books including the best selling Wake Up and Smell the Competition and Capture Your Competitors’ Customers and KEEP Them. To learn more visit www.christinespeaks.com, or call 847.581.9968.
Modern Contractor Solutions, MAY 2014
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