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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 5
Issue 10

Are You a Steward of Accountability?

"It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable."

Moliere

We have witnessed a lot of finger pointing during the current financial crisis as news analysts try to identify who caused this mess. Was it Washington’s fault for loosening regulations on the financial sector? Did the banks and mortgage companies act irresponsibly and sell below prime in a deceptive manner? How many families habitually spent beyond their means? What about the absurd salaries and perks of corporate CEOs and their executives? I suspect all of the above and more share responsibility in some way, yet who has faced up to their roles in the crisis? Not many.

It offends human nature to apologize and admit to their offense. When someone prominent does agree to some fault, as Alan Greenspan did recently, it is usually trivialized as a mistake or an error in judgment. And when they do own up to something, it is usually after they have been exposed. Further examples include our presidents, who fail to recall facts or acknowledge bad choices, and so on down the line: our bosses and multi-national corporate leaders, our judges, police departments, teachers, parents and even our children rarely own up to their wrongdoing.

As business owners you can do your part to raise the standards of accountability:

  • Be responsible for everything in your business. If your employees have errors in judgment, you must take responsibility. It is your company, and you are ultimately accountable, especially to your customers.
  • Own up to your mistakes. Admit to bad decisions, poor choices and misunderstandings. Then apologize to all who have been affected.
  • Make your words matter. If you say something, follow through. Back up promises. If something you said was ambiguous and caused confusion, graciously accept the consequences and be clearer the next time.
  • Hold yourself to the highest standards. Overlooking shady behavior makes you an accomplice and encourages even more of the same. You are the face and spokesperson for yourself and your business. Be a role model for those around you.
  • Honor the honesty of others. Do it not because truthfulness is rare, but to encourage people to behave with integrity. Recognize those who take risks telling it like it is.
  • Make responsibility part of your business culture. Define roles and what each person is accountable for, and then hold them responsible. Be clear about expectations and assign consequences for sub-par performance. At the same time, reward excellence.

Don’t accept mediocrity, but rather hold yourself and your business to ethically rigorous standards. Reflect what you believe in your behavior, and expect the same from others. The need is great. One by one we can raise our personal and collective standards of accountability. Our businesses will be healthier and I bet we’ll all sleep better.

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