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The Business Forum
Accountability for Results
Executive's Ultimate Challenge
Thomas R. Northup
Have you participated in a business
initiative that your company never completed? Did you watch key
business goals suffer as teams missed deadline after deadline?
Often such problems arise because
neither the employees nor the management team hold themselves truly
accountable. When teams don’t execute effectively because of lack of
accountability, the company fails to generate results.
Accountability for results is the
crucial step in producing outstanding performance. Many executives have
trouble providing this accountability.
Executives are responsible for
creating accountability in his organization.
First, the executive and his
management team must develop and commit to a clear vision and translate
that vision into a coordinated strategic plan. Without this foundation
everyday pressures will overwhelm the process, producing an
ever-changing environment that causes indecision and delays.
Second, the management team must
make certain that everyone within the company knows that it is committed
to the initiative. When teams work under public scrutiny, they develop a
strong desire to succeed and to share the achievement. Teams that only
commit to doing well are subtly preparing for eventual failure.
Third, the team must place the
organization over individual interests. When individuals channel their
efforts into making the team work better, positive results occur.
Conversely, when individuals protect their turf and work at cross
purposes, they doom the initiative.
Fourth, team members must
coordinate their high payoff activities so that they work with the same
result in mind. The team must focus both individually and collectively
on objectives and outcomes to generate positive performance.
Using Accountability to Generate
It is not enough to establish
accountability in a company. To create results, management must create
sound tactics to measure performance. Revenue and profit goals are
important but beyond that management must clearly identify relevant
metrics, ensure that those metrics are realistic, and specify expected
Effective executives understand
that projects never go as intended. Therefore they hold regular progress
review meetings to build accountability into their management routine.
These reviews develop focus within the teams and keep the pressures of
everyday work life from causing slippage.
These focused review meetings take
place outside of regular staff meetings. Their frequency depends on the
complexity of the initiative and its progress. With regular reviews,
management can make simple corrections while maintaining the original
Regular review meetings allow
management to keep teams accountable and to measure progress towards the
Accountability and the Leader
An executive who exhibits strong
leadership is best positioned to create accountability for results and
outstanding performance. He plays four key leadership roles:
Building a culture that values company objectives above individual
ambition in which everyone works toward the same objective.
Building a culture of trust. In this environment, team members
understand they can be vulnerable with each other without fear of
personal attack and political retribution. They solve problems more
quickly because they make decisions based on objective input from
the outset. Management teams with a high degree of trust are
cohesive and function at a high level.
Avoiding personally becoming the task master of accountability.
Effective executives trust the team to do the work and hold each
other accountable. Without trust team members will hesitate to
accept this role.
Personally setting the tone for absolute focus on results. When
team members sense that the leader lacks focus, they too will lack
The success with which management
holds itself and its teams accountable is the key to a company’s future.
Lack of accountability produces extreme frustration when it leads to
lack of desired results.
Effective accountability is simple
in concept but difficult to practice in that it requires good
execution. Accountability is best accomplished when we:
a solid foundation and work to a clear strategic plan.
identified specific metrics.
regular progress reviews.
The role of the leader is extremely
The effective executive builds a
culture of trust within the management team and a culture of valuing the
organization over the individual.
He builds a team that works openly
without personal and political agendas.
Most importantly, the executive
acts as the organization’s role model for effective accountability. He
sets the standard for creating results by demonstrating an unwavering
resolve to achieve initiatives. He follows the maxim “inspect what you
expect” by reviewing progress and insisting that deadlines be met. He
creates results by keeping himself accountable even as he provides
accountability for his management and working teams.
Thomas R. Northup is a Fellow of The Business
Forum Institute and is a nationally recognized management expert,
consultant, speaker and coach. He is the author of the book, The Five
Hidden Mistakes CEOs Make. How to Unlock the Secrets and Drive Growth
and Profitability. Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York
Times best-seller, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, said about Five Mistakes “Gleaned from years of success as a CEO in his
own right, Tom Northup masterfully provides practical wisdom and tools
to move senior leaders beyond the status quo to help them see what
they need to see, not just what they want to see.” Tom is the
former CEO and principal of three successful businesses, and he
understands the business complexities faced by today’s busy executives.
He is experienced in high growth situations, new product start-ups,
strategic planning, market analysis, team operations, and
turn-around/reorganization. Today, through coaching, consulting,
mentoring, and training, Tom provides practical experience and
thoughtful leadership. Tom works side-by-side with clients to develop
plans and implement strategies to …. build capabilities that increase
revenue and profitability year after year, make companies more proactive
in the marketplace, build effective management teams, foster greater
corporate wide accountability and generate sustained results. He is a
goal-oriented executive experienced in developing strong management
teams all with a focus on driving continuous results and success.
Tom graduated with a BS in Mathematics from Bucknell University and has
an MBA from Syracuse University. He is an active with the Forum for
Corporate Directors, the Institute of Management Consultants and runs a
CEO roundtable at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his
book he has written many articles on management that have been published throughout the
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