Let’s talk about accountability, not what people think it means, but what it should really look like when you’re leading a young, up and coming, company. All too often, especially in young companies, the accountability pyramid is top-heavy, loaded on the back of the CEO as everyone else is trying to find their way in their job. While logistics make this dynamic somewhat necessary – to a point – it’s neither a sustainable nor an ideal situation.
Leaders need to shed responsibility early and often if they want their company to grow. That doesn’t mean the buck ever stops anywhere else, only that it has a lot of significant pauses along the way up the chain of command. Someone once said the goal of the CEO is to be doing only what he or she can do in the company, and this standard is not far off of how it should be. If you, as the leader, are investing your time doing something someone else should be doing, you are not only wasting your time, you are depriving your company of its full potential.
Hoarding responsibility because you don’t trust your people or because your ego just won’t allow you to delegate is the first and best way to drive your company right off a cliff. So, one of your first orders of business is to find people you can trust to do the things other people could – and should – be doing. The key here is people you know you can trust. People you know will do the job well and in line with your vision and business goals. Once you have those people on the team and on the right place on the proverbial bus, move on to another area you can delegate. At each step of this process be sure to build in accountability measures that encourage creativity and aggressive thinking, as long as it lines up with the overarching vision. This is a twofold process: you need to make sure that person understands the vision and that they are capable of doing the job on their own. This doesn’t mean you ride herd on them until they get it perfect, but that they have proven themselves willing and enthusiastic about taking charge of that job and owning it when you get out of their way.
The flip side of that is difficult, but it’s equally important. If you have someone making the same – often careless – mistakes again and again, or if they come to you with excuses instead of solutions, they’re not the person for that job. They may be a person for another spot in the company, but you cannot afford to babysit, nor can you invest the resources or emotional energy in wondering if they’re going to do it right “next time.”
In summation: figure out a way to only do the things you can or should be doing, find people who love to do the things you shouldn’t be doing and let them excel. Everyone will have a real opportunity to succeed, and all of you will be better off for it.