construction team on site

Make People Accountable and Responsible


Have you ever heard a construction business owner tell you that their employees were terrible? They weren’t accountable or responsible for anything, including getting work done on-time, or even doing quality work. They were continuously doing sloppy work and running over budget on every job. The business owner said he didn’t know what to do and was very stressed-out.

Want to know why employees aren’t accountable or responsible? Think about your reasons. Perhaps you think your people don’t care, or don’t want to work any harder, or don’t want to do more than the minimum required. The real reason is their boss, or perhaps even you. You don’t teach them how to be accountable or responsible. You continue to let them do poor work and not achieve expected results. Most employees want to do a good job and take on more responsibility. But in most cases, their control-freak, micro-managing, bad bosses tolerate poor performance, don’t let go of making decisions, and treat their people like stupid children who can’t think for themselves. Sound familiar?

The business owner who said their employees were terrible made all of the important decisions for their crews, ordered all the materials, did all of the employee scheduling, didn’t have field meetings with them, and didn’t share job results with the foremen. No wonder the crews weren’t accountable or responsible for achieving results. They weren’t making any decisions, or in charge of their own work plan. The business owner was the only one responsible for anything.

Do you “SOPP”

Do people continuously call you or line up outside your office door waiting for you to solve their problems? Why do you think that is? Maybe you have a sign around your neck: "I SOPP” (I solve other people’s problems). When you solve other people’s problems, guess what happens? They bring you more problems. And it makes you feel powerful when you control everything for everyone.

When bad bosses give someone a task or responsibility to accomplish, they typically don’t let go of every decision required to fully accomplish the job. This bad boss delegates and then tells the employee to check with them first before committing, making any decisions, or spending any money. How can the employee be accountable for something they aren’t responsible for? People know that, when they make decisions, you’ll second-guess them, overrule them, and not trust them to be as smart as you. So people stop making decisions or accepting responsibility, give you back their accountability, and continue to bring you more problems. People responsible for nothing are responsible for nothing. 99% responsible is the same as 0% responsible. Either you are responsible or you’re not. You can’t be partially responsible. You can’t say, "Handle this, but check with me first." Trusting people is the key to improving their performance.

Low control, high performance

Leading your company is not about being in charge and in control of every aspect of the operation. It’s about getting results through people. Controlling and micro-managing people guarantees low performance. Leadership is about delegating, encouraging, coaching, and letting go. Low control guarantees high performance from your people. People want to follow leaders who trust them and hand out accountability and responsibility. Your role as a leader should be less about what you do and more about what your people do.

Excellent managers encourage employees to take on more responsibility by actually delegating an entire task. This takes more time, patience, and trust. Start by explaining the job and outlining the desired end result. This will teach employees how you want things done and what’s expected. Next, make sure they know their boundaries and standard systems, offer training, set interim check-in times, and schedule a review of the final results after the task is completed. Results are what matters. For example, in the hotel business, do you care how the rooms are refreshed or that they’ll look the same when guests arrive? When employees are responsible for results and know exactly what is expected, you can then then make them accountable.

Written BIZ-Systems help the process. When you have written, trained company systems and standards, you can then make employees accountable and responsible to complete tasks the same way every time. When your procedures are only in your head, you can’t expect employees to read your mind and get it right every time. It makes things worse when you ask people to do something, and then get upset when they do it wrong, even though they did not have proper training or a clear understanding of what was expected. The result will be that your employees will shy away from volunteering to take on more responsibility.

The more you do, the less you make

What is holding your company back? Is it you? Perhaps you’re the real problem as you continue to control everything and everybody. This poor leadership style holds people back from wanting to do more. When you make every decision, people don’t take responsibility. When you fix or solve employee’s problems, they can’t be accountable. When you lead every meeting, managers don’t grow. When you approve every purchase, contract, or strategic move, good people don’t have to think or be their best.

When a customer calls with an issue, do you immediately handle it yourself? A better solution would be to listen first and then turn your customer’s concern over to a supervisor or manager. When it’s time to make a major purchase or award a large contract, do you get right in the middle of the negotiations? Instead, ask your manager to review the proposals, analyze the inclusions and exclusions, negotiate terms with the lowest responsible company, and then get your final approval. When a supervisor asks you to call a subcontractor or supplier who isn’t performing, do you jump in and take charge? Train your supervisors to plan ahead, use written procedures, checklists, schedules, and team meetings to manage the workflow. One simple delegation strategy is to increase the maximum spending limit for all employees. Delegate by allowing them to spend at least $1,000 or more, before they have to get the boss’s approval. The key is to stop making decisions for them.

Let go to grow

Pretend you have a rubber stamp that you can use when people gave you an approval request. It states: "Please handle this and don’t tell me what you did!" Why? Because you don’t need to know how they handled the problem they wanted you to solve. You have to trust them to use their best judgment and take care of it 100%. People will make mistakes. But if you ask them to be 100% accountable and responsible, they’ll figure out how to do it right and make careful decisions. If you continually answer their questions and do their job for them, they’re going to keep asking you for more help. You will find that your employees can make better decisions than you do if you let them try.

Write down the few things you absolutely can’t delegate. Then, list the top twenty things you can immediately let go of. Make it a goal to delegate one item on the list every week. You’ll be amazed how excited your people will be to accept new responsibilities and become accountable.

Business - Commercial Construction Industry

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.