Start A BusinessEntrepreneurshipHow small business owners can successfully hold themselves accountable

How small business owners can successfully hold themselves accountable

Business owners need to constantly look forward. That’s one of the main drivers of success in any enterprise, not just in business. It’s a rule that can apply to both our professional and personal lives.

However, as important as looking at the future is, looking back can be just as vital, if not more so. Evaluating past decisions and actions leads us to discover what drove us to make those decisions and how they impacted our present success or failure. In essence, holding ourselves accountable for our current position generates the momentum to move us forward with more direct, concise, and motivating action.

Accountability can be described as taking personal responsibility for your actions, performance, and outcomes. But as a business owner, it’s more complicated than that – because it involves being accountable to a team of people and holding that team responsible to you and themselves as well. It’s a balancing act that must be ingrained in a company’s culture to work correctly.

Remember the old adage: “Do as I say, not as I do.” If you truly want to grow your business and create a strong team of dedicated employees simultaneously, this is not the motto to follow. Employees need to see that their leadership team is all in and willing to walk the walk as much as they talk the talk.

This article will explain the importance of accountability for entrepreneurs and why failing to follow through on promises can create a toxic work environment – and negative behaviors that will replicate through the ranks. We will also outline some simple guidelines and tools that business owners can use to help them maintain accountability.

Why Accountability Matters to the Team  

Accountability is more than scolding employees for a mistake or even counseling team members on poor performance. The entire concept of being accountable should be to inspire better performance in the future – not to dwell on the mistakes already made. Cementing accountability into the culture of a business means asking tough questions, like, “Where did we go wrong, and how can we do better next time?” Owners and leaders have a big responsibility when it comes to their employees. The team looks to leadership for cues on how to react to situations and will find either inspiration or demoralization from the way leaders behave daily.

Follow through, or lack of it, is one way leaders shape team members. Trust is an integral part of any successful business structure, and nothing will destroy that trust faster than a leader who says one thing but does something else.

Showing team members that you are accountable to them, and vice versa, through actions, support, and guidance will build an environment where employees want to do better. And even more importantly, they will have the belief in themselves and their employer to allow them to do so.

Stay Accountable – Driving Success from the Top  

Business owners have to juggle many responsibilities: daily meetings, paperwork, reports, and a long list of commitments that probably feels never-ending. An owner often loses focus on the big-picture goals and gets bogged down in the day-to-day. If the goal is to grow – that’s the wrong way to go about it.

Most entrepreneurs probably started their businesses with one or two simple ideas. Those ideas likely expanded over time to include a long list of ideas, goals, and brainstorming ideas on how to get there. The best way to bring personal accountability back into a leadership role is to get back to those big ideas and then break them into actionable steps.

In his book “The Big Leap,” author and business guru Gay Hendricks writes about how entrepreneurs can take the next big step in their journey and how holding limiting beliefs is a roadblock for entrepreneurs. “We keep ourselves so tied up in regretting the past and fearing the future that we don’t have any energy left to figure out who we are and what we want to create right now,” he says.

Genius ZoneMore: Finding Your ‘Genius Zone’ with N.Y. Times Best-Selling Author Gay Hendricks

Tips for Improving Accountability

Start With Yourself

If you don’t hold yourself accountable, nobody else will. That’s one of the responsibilities that come with being a leader. Think of it this way – if you worked for somebody else instead of for yourself, you would feel obligated to remain accountable to that person. You would show up on time, complete the tasks asked of you, and strive to be successful in your role.

The key to staying accountable to yourself is maintaining that mindset every day. Set big goals for yourself and your business, break them down into actionable tasks, track and measure the results, and then form a new and better plan in the future – every time. Continuous improvement and personal accountability go hand in hand.

Research shows that more than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of their business goals. Changing that trend is essential to consistently holding yourself accountable for your own success.

Set Clear Objectives and Actionable Tasks

Goals will be easier to reach if everyone understands exactly what is expected of them. It won’t be easy to hold team members accountable for something if they’re not offered clear expectations upfront.

Once objectives are clearly defined, break the goals down into smaller actionable steps. Use language that is clear and concise. For example, if the goal is to increase sales, let team members know exactly how many additional sales they should strive for and then offer detailed steps to get there.

Use Measurables to Track Progress

Setting clear expectations is one thing, but goals need measurable, quantifiable milestones so that it’s easier to see if things are on track and where improvements can be made. Accountability will be more impactful if you can point to specific areas where performance falls short. Using measurable goals will help the entire team understand how they can improve moving forward.

Share, Review, and Revamp

Accountability is a process that only works when you take the time to sit back and look at the results. Setting a goal, tracking the progress regularly, and then reviewing outcomes with team members is the best way to create actionable changes. Post progress in a visible location or provide progress reports to team members so they can follow along with the company’s success and take pride in their own. 

Celebrate Wins

Every success deserves recognition. Team members especially thrive when positive reinforcement is included in company culture. When employees feel appreciated, they will be more productive, efficient, and positive in the workplace – all attributes that lead to better success overall. 

Admit Your Mistakes

Leaders walk a tightrope – you always want your team to think you’re competent in your role, but at the same time, you’re only human. One of the hardest lessons business owners must learn is how to own up to their mistakes.

You may think doing so will cause employees to see you as weak – but on the contrary – they will respect your transparency and forthrightness. And a good team will work to overcome challenges brought about by mistakes by working harder to fill in the gaps.

Spend the Time it Takes

Maintaining both personal and professional accountability is no easy task. It requires dedication, hard work, and constant commitment. This means allotting specific time for each individual employee, team, department, project, goal, and even yourself. Schedule frequent reviews on particular action items and give them your complete attention.


Being accountable takes consistent action – every day. Employees must understand that their leadership team, all the way up to the owner, has a personal investment in their success and the business’s success.

More importantly, business owners need to hold themselves accountable – to themselves. Setting goals, working toward their completion, and then evaluating the actions taken creates a better path for success the next time.

And it can be something other than giant, lofty goals, like achieving $1 mi
llion in revenue or retiring early. Accountability works better when goals are broken down into smaller steps. One foot in front of the other, so to speak, is the only way to complete any journey.

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