Ep #29: The Accountability Problem for Entrepreneurs

 In Podcast

Leaders today are so fearful of confrontation and giving feedback that they’re not holding employees accountable. Here’s the big mistake we all make, and how to keep it from being a drag on your business.

What you’ll find in this episode:

  1. Accountability is your ability to account for someone else’s ability.
  2. If we, collectively, as business leaders, decided to consistently account for our employees’ ability, we would change the world.
  3. People who don’t care or want to be held accountable don’t hate you. They don’t like the transparency of witnessing their own inadequacy.
  4. Age is not related to accountability. It’s experience and it’s the way people think.
  5. The first mistake we all make is hiring someone and assuming they’ll hold themselves accountable.
  6. Thinking about hiring someone to solve a problem is the seed of accountability. Once you know what the solution looks like, now you know the role that position must fill, and what accountability looks like.
  7. Accountability is not a corporate thing – it’s a relationship thing.

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Podcast Transcript

Hey everyone, I’m Kris Plachy and this is How to Lead for female entrepreneurs and founders. Because, the best way to grow a business is to grow the person who’s running it. Let’s go ahead and get started.

Hello, gorgeous. How are you? How are you today in the world wherever you are. I hope that you are happy, not too stressed out. You’re taking some time for yourself today, somewhere listening to this. Maybe you’re going to have a nice long car ride or a nice walk to work or maybe you’re on a treadmill. I always love to think about where you are. That’s a reminder from me to you too. If you listen, I would love little bit if you took a screenshot of you listening and then tag me on Instagram, tell me about what you’re learning from me. I just want to know what you learned from this podcast. It’s been happening more and more and it’s just so fun. It’s seeing your face, “Oh, there you are!” I love seeing who you are. So, it’s so fun.

So, today we’re going to talk about accountability and I can assure you there will be more of these podcasts in the space on accountability because oh, we have a lot of work to do. We have so much work to do.

So, today I want to kind of cover overview, a very broad discussion on accountability. But, there’s all sorts of pieces and parts that go into this. And, the work that I do with my clients is all, so much of it is in here. Because, accountability actually begins when you make a decision whether or not you want to hire someone, not the person, but making that conscious choice of saying, “Oh I think I need to hire someone.” That right then is when that accountability seed goes in the ground and over time will blossom into its own life form. And, then accountability has to be the center of a relationship that you have with an employee. I can’t stress this enough. It’s, without, I don’t know how we function in a world without accountability.

Well, let me take that back. I do know how we function in the world without accountability because I watch everybody in the world functioning without it, barely. Oh, they’re hobbling along. So, what is accountability?

I like to define accountability as my ability to account for your ability. Can you account for someone’s ability? Can you evaluate someone’s ability? Can you see if someone did the thing that they were asked to do? That’s it. Accountability doesn’t mean that they’re incompetent. Accountability doesn’t mean you’re going to write someone up. Accountability doesn’t mean they’re going to get fired. Accountability doesn’t mean that you’re mean accountability doesn’t mean conflict. It just means accounting for someone’s ability. So, in order to account for someone’s ability, you first have to document, assess, determine what you’re going to be accounting that ability against. Otherwise, it’s not accountability. It’s just people do stuff and you hope you like it.

You hope it aligns with what you need. It’s not accountability, it’s just people working and turning stuff in or getting stuff done. There’s no accountability. But, I think we have, I mean, it’s interesting because this is probably been, if there’s, there’s a couple of really, really deep dives I’ve done in my work and accountability is one of them. The other one is working with difficult people, dealing with difficult people, managing difficult people, being a difficult person. So, accountability is something I’ve been studying forever. And, I actually remember years ago I had a client who was aligned and very close to the then governor of California, and he was up for a secretary position to head up one of the departments here in the state. And, I told this guy, I said, “Look, if you get this job, you got to get me an audience with the governor because we need to fix accountability in all state run organizations, institutions because it’s so bad.”

All we have to do is think about the typical state run organization like the DMV or your fricking PG&E or whatever, electricity. And, we know these institutions, even though PG&E I guess is actually private, they’re just so poorly run. And, the reason they’re so poorly run is because there’s no accountability. In fact, it’s the opposite in many cases, the cultures in these organizations is to not be held accountable and employees do everything they can to not be held accountable.

Now, I’m picking on DMV as an example and for those of you who are listening, who might work there, please, you are not alone because here’s now what’s happening. In my experience, there used to be more of a difference in my opinion, between public service and private service behaviors in employees. And, I am finding now that that is not the case. That even it is more consistent now even in private for profit types of organizations to be running into employees who have no sense of accountability and absolutely don’t want it. And, that’s a huge problem.

So, I’ve had this sort of, if we as collectively as business leaders decided to consistently account for our employees ability, we would change the world. We would increase productivity by miles. We would generate so much more revenue, more people would be successful, more people would be fulfilled, more people would grow, and then we would start the snowball of accountability. So, then once people know what it looks like, they can model it and then they can promote it in others and then they can account for others’ ability. But, because we’ve become so fearful of giving feedback and confrontation and dealing with someone’s disappointment and experiencing other people having emotions and wanting to be the nice person, we’re not holding anybody accountable.

And, then respectfully, those people end up trying to get a job with me. Then I’m, “What’s happening? Who let you in? Where did you learn that it’s okay to be like this? Oh, I know in your last job because you had a boss who didn’t hold you accountable, you had colleagues who didn’t hold you accountable. What do they do? They talk about you and not to you.” We’ve got to stop. So, my charge, I believe in the world is to help you get more comfortable in your ability to account for their ability and to give the feedback and to follow up and to have the conversation. Because, the people who want to win will love you for it. And, the people who don’t care, will absolutely hate you. And, you know what? Who cares? Let them. They don’t hate you. They don’t like the transparency of witnessing their own inadequacy. You with me?

You say to someone, “Hey Joyce, you said this would be done today. It’s not done. What happened?” And, now, you’re the bitch because you asked what happened to the agreement we made. You’re not a bitch. You’re holding her accountable. That’s your job. And, frankly your business is begging you. Your other employees who rely on Joyce are begging you, “Please do something about this. Please resolve this problem we have with Joyce. I can’t do my job if Joyce doesn’t do her job and I want to do my job, but I can’t because Joyce isn’t doing her job and you are not holding Joyce accountable, boss, because you’re afraid that Joyce might cry. Because, you’re afraid that Joyce might shut down. Because, you’re afraid that Joyce will get defensive. Because, you’re afraid that Joyce might sue.”

I know this is a little bit of a rant, but I hope you hear me. I love you so much and I know this is all solvable. We have to be willing. I in the last six weeks have fired four people. Now, we didn’t say a lot about that. We could make that mean a lot. I believe it’s all part of something else bigger that I’m learning, which is to help you. And, each one of them, I could go back to a moment in time where I saw I allowed for a gap in accountability. And, allowing for that gap and accountability is what let a little seed of non accountability grow. It altered expectations in the mind of my employee. And, then we were off to the races because, most, and I don’t have statistics, but I’m going to go with over 90% of business environments have very poor accountability structures. And, employees, people in general are used to not having to meet a deliverable because it’s so common and there’s really not a level of urgency.

People are used to not meeting a deliverable with the best production, with error free, with impeccability. Because, it’s not on the other end either. So, when we’re talking about wanting to hire people who do their job, and we want to create, we want people who own their experience. What you have to really, we all have to understand is while most entrepreneurs already think that way, because you took the chance on you. You’re, “I’m in, let’s do it. Nobody else is coming. I’m going to figure this out, and I’m going to make a living doing what I want to do.” You’re all in. You know what it takes to be successful because you’ve proven to yourself that you can through trial and error.

But, the people that you’re going to hire don’t have the same filter, the same perspective. It’s like someone said to me once “It’s like they don’t see a color that you see” and so you’re in over here thinking, “Well, I hope they can work. Do it this way. I hope they can see this color.” And, they’ve never seen it before. So, when you say “I have to hire people, I want people who have ownership.” It sounds so silly and yet there are 35 and 45 year old people, 25 year old people because I don’t tolerate people castigating in taller entire generations. This is everybody.

Of the people that I’ve worked with over the last year, I can tell you I’ve had people in their 50s and people in their 20s and I’m finding a similar pattern. So, age is not related to accountability at all. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s experience and its thought process. It’s the way people think. So, when you hire someone and you just assume they’re going to hold themselves accountable, that they’re going to have ownership. That is the first mistake we all make. And, honestly it’s the same one I’ve made because they haven’t witnessed it. They haven’t had it modeled for them. It’s a truth we just have to tell instead of wishing people would be different.

So, when you start the process, which is “I think I need an assistant. I think I need a marketing coordinator. I think I need a financial manager. I think I need a customer service person.” When you start there, I want you to start with what is the problem in the business and then what is the solution? And, you have to determine the solution, so the problem is we have a funky customer service response process. I’m going to tweak it, I’m going to fix it, and then I’m going to hire somebody to implement the solution. That’s the seed of accountability. Because, I know what this role has to do to thrive. To prove their value to the solution that I have determined. That’s the beginning.

Now, what I do with my clients is, a lot of you are, “Oh no, no, I did that. I wrote the job description and I hired the person. But how do I talk to them? How do I give them feedback? What am I supposed to do one on ones, but my business is really small that seems..do I need to do one on ones? Or is that just for bigger companies? And, what do I do in a one-on-one? And, then what do I do if people don’t meet their expectations? And, they don’t meet their deadlines and what do I do if people just are like kind of negative? How do I manage that? And, what do I do.” This is what I do with you. You come to my coaching calls and we lab this, we work this, we workshop it, I coach you on why it’s hard for you and then we role play how you’re going to take action.

And, then most of my clients right after our group call, they take action, and they post in our forum. “All right, did it fired her, talked to her, addressed it, had the conversation.” They do it right away. We’ve get you ready and then the more you do that, the better you get, but the faster you can get this part of your leadership behavior dialed, the faster your business is going to move forward. Not holding people accountable is a total drag on the success of your business. Absolutely, without fail. If you are tolerating poor performance because you have fear around holding them accountable because of what you think they will do, cry, get defensive, argue, not agree, quit.

Then you have created a bottleneck in your business that really has nothing to do with the employee and has everything to do with you. So, I know this is kind of the bigger conversation about accountability and I want to prime, I’m priming you first of all with my perspective. So, if you completely disagree with me now would be a good time to really stop listening to the podcast because all the rest of the things that we talk about related to accountability are going to be layered from this point of view.

We do have, I believe we have a massive thought process shift that has to happen over time if we all want quote unquote accountability cultures. But, it starts with leadership, not with employees. And, that’s true for a bakery down on first street that has two or 16 people. That’s true for an online leader who has 25 people who runs an online business. And, that’s true for Microsoft who has, I don’t even know how many thousands of people. Accountability is not a corporate thing. Frankly, accountability is a relationship thing. It’s you to me. It’s husband and wife. It’s wife to husband. It’s kid to parent and parent to kid. It’s dog owner to dog as I look at my little dog, I have accountability, I’ve made commitments to her. She lets me know when I haven’t fulfilled them. It’s friend to friend.

Accountability is about relationship and clarity and expectations, but it’s our responsibility. Instead of waiting for other people to show up and take ownership, we have to model it. We have to be the place where folks land, and they learn it. If they’ve never learned it, they’re going to learn it here. And, if they don’t like it, they can go. And, if they don’t like it, I will know fast, and I will resolve that quickly. Because, having non-performers in your business is like dragging a 400 ton boulder. You have to stop. I will teach you how. This is the mechanics, and I know that’s why it’s hard for you. It’s hard for all of us. I’ll never forget when I first had to start giving feedback to new info to an employee as a new manager, my whole face and neck turned splotchy and red, my voice quivered, I sweat. After they would leave my office, I would cry. I mean train wreck. I was not brought up this way.

We were, my household was, “La la la la la la la, everybody’s happy.” So, man, it’s been cutting my teeth for 25, 26 years. I get it. But, I’ll tell you what, the faster and better I got at it, first of all, more people wanted to work for me, which is so interesting. So, I promise you, I know exactly how to deliver this result for you, but you first have to decide it’s you. You’re going to take responsibility. You’re going to take accountability for the accountability practices in your business.

Are you ready? If you are stay with me, thanks for tuning in.

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