Investor’s Business Daily: Hold The Whole Team Accountable To Gain Top Results

By Steve Watkins


Hold people accountable for doing what you need from them. It’ll help your firm achieve better results and enable you to quickly find problems and determine how to solve them.

Set the stage. Several years ago, Phil Hildebrandt, CEO of Chicago-based investment management firm Segall Bryant & Hamill, noticed one of his employees didn’t do his job effectively. Managers merely had others pick up the slack. He knew it was time to put an accountability plan in place to combat that. “It actually weakened two positions: that person’s position and the person who had to do the extra work,” he told IBD.

Make the connection. Hildebrandt started changing the culture by tying bonuses to performance reviews. Sounds simple.

But the firm previously gave reviews that could be negative, even as it doled out bonuses. That sent mixed messages. “It was a big change,” he said. “Compensation is probably the most direct form of accountability. I believe actions speak louder than words.”

It’s a necessity. When people are accountable for doing their jobs and keeping promises, others trust them. Apply that to customers. When they trust your company, they’ll spend more, says Steven Overman, president of the consumer and film division of Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman Kodak (NYSE:KODK).

“Accountability is a business requirement,” he said. “There’s a monetized value you can place on trust. If a company is trusted, it’s far easier to cross-sell or up-sell.”

Fix your target. ‘Accountability’ has taken on a vague, buzzword-like quality over the years, so you’ll need to clearly state to whom people need to be accountable.

Tell employees they need to be accountable to co-workers and customers to do what they promised, says Overman, author of “The Conscience Economy.”

“Today we’re more accountable than ever before because our actions impact more people than ever before,” he said.

Lay it out. Give employees a set of duties. Early on at Segall Bryant & Hamill, the firm hired one person for multiple jobs on a few occasions. Those people had several bosses. It didn’t work. Now it states a specific role for each employee. “That allows you to get to the bottom of things if there’s a problem and gives you a clear idea of what’s expected of people,” Hildebrandt said.

Give straight talk. Hildebrandt communicates plainly and directly to his people and to clients.

He tells clients exactly how the firm’s investments performed, even if the results were weak.

Talk it through. Communicate as much as possible. When you state what you expect, others know the bar they need to vault.

“That increases understanding and empathy,” Overman said.

Measure it. Nothing persuades a business to change like hard data. Measure performance and hold people accountable for it. “Fact-based organizations tend to have more accountability,” Overman said. “It does motivate people to step up. Shame can be motivating.”

Stay consistent. “I’m a huge believer that with employee reviews, there should be very little surprise,” Hildebrandt said. “It really shouldn’t get to the point of waiting a year to tell where you’re falling down or doing well. That’s critically important.”

Show the impact. Tell people how actions affect others, Overman says. If you know that turning in an expense report late makes the accounting staff’s job harder, you’ll be more likely to hit your deadline. “I think people are naturally good and tend to do the right thing when they understand the effects of their actions,” he said.

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