Accountability and Small Businesses

Accountability Matters

Based on a singular definition of accountability, it’s “a situation in which someone is responsible for things that happen and can give a satisfactory reason for them.” It’s a little more than that, though, usually. In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to have accountability for our actions.

Whether you’re a business owner, an employee, or someone looking to improve your sense of responsibility, accountability is a critical factor in success. Being accountable for your actions can help you build trust, gain respect, and foster positive professional and personal relationships.

Different Types of Accountability

Accountability can be used in a variety of settings and situations. This means there are different types of accountability that you should use. Investopedia has an article that goes over different types of accountability, but here’s a quick overview of some of them.

Accountability in the Workplace

Different positions have different levels of accountability. Members of management are expected to have accountability in setting expectations for employees and delegating tasks. Employees need accountability when completing tasks.

Maintaining the levels of accountability helps foster a safe, rewarding work environment. If a workplace lacks accountability, it makes those that work there begin to grow resentful and lowers work ethic and morale. Many people probably have similar stories about some place they worked where coworkers wouldn’t get assignments done or management wouldn’t follow through with expectations.

Over time, those ware down even the most devoted worker, leading to the desire to hold yourself accountable dissolve, and the work environment crumbles.

Media Accountability

This area of accountability has become more important as society becomes more digitally inclined. Accountability in the media has been hard to maintain, given its ability instantaneously spread and share information and communicate with people all over the world.

Not to mention its ability to provide a sense of anonymity through different platforms where different subgroups can form and encourage behaviors and ideas. Holding yourself accountable in the media means being aware of what you share and doing your best to avoid spreading misinformation and interacting with hate speech. Today’s “cancel culture” movement is one of the ways accountability is being attempted online. Its usage is debated on whether it works or does more harm than good. According to the Pew Research Center, 49% of people who know about cancel culture see it as people attempting to hold others accountable for what they say and do. 14% see it as a form of censorship, and 12% see it as attacks on others to cause harm.

Corporate Accountability

Corporate accountability shows itself mainly in corporations holding themselves to a standard of honesty and avoiding financial fraud. One of the ways accountability can be held in a corporate setting is through the financial audits public companies are required to do.

To ensure they maintain accountability regarding their financial numbers and practices, they bring in an outside auditor. In doing this, they build a foundation of honesty between their company and the public, making them seem more appealing to possible clients.

An example of why accountability within businesses is essential can be seen in how businesses that do not uphold a level of accountability will not survive. An example is how in late 2022, the crypto company FTX ended up owing customers roughly $8 billion and was discovered to have been funneling money into Alameda Research since 2019. After money laundering and fraud charges, FTX and Alameda Research went bankrupt.

Steps on How to Be Accountable

Forbes, WVSBDC, and Business Owner’s Playbook, all have articles laying out some steps on how to be accountable, but here are a few important starting points to help get you started:

1. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. One of the things that people don’t seem to realize sometimes is that accountability takes a great deal of humility. Over-confidence or arrogance can be the death of accountability due to making people feel like they can do no wrong.

Being accountable means knowing you can and will make mistakes sometimes but that you are willing to learn from those mistakes and expand your knowledge. As a small business owner, having a bit of humility and being able to admit when you don’t know everything allows your employees to trust you more and provide their input.

This also allows for transparent conversations with clients and can help improve communication between clients and businesses. Admit when you don’t know things, own up to mistakes made, and know you can only improve with practice and discipline.

2. Acknowledge that accountability isn’t always easy. We don’t always want to acknowledge when we could be doing better or when we’ve done something wrong. It’s not easy-going face to face with our actions, or lack thereof. Holding yourself accountable will not always be easy or desirable, and that’s okay.

We still have to strive to do so as often as possible for our success professionally and personally.

3. Hold an achievable vision. Understanding your goals and setting realistic expectations is one of the easiest ways to begin. If you set the goals to an unrealistic level, completing the tasks will be difficult, if not impossible, and those around you will be unable to trust your judgment. Therefore, the opposite of obtaining accountability will happen.

4. Have outside parties help hold you accountable Having another set of eyes and ears to help you through assignments will help hold you accountable for the goals and expectations you’ve placed on yourself. Having someone you trust, whether it be a mentor or colleague, keep an eye on your progress makes holding yourself accountable so much easier.

5. Consistency is key. Inconsistency is one of the biggest causes of the death of accountability. Teaching yourself to be consistent can be a daunting task. It doesn't help that sometimes life seems to do everything it can to keep consistency out of reach, but developing consistent healthy habits will help make holding yourself accountable much easier.

6. Take time to reward hard work. Doing good work but reaping no rewards makes the desire to work shrink until you and others have no drive to do so. After a long day of work, give yourself a relaxing evening. After an employee does a job well, let them know they’re appreciated, provide them with some sort of reward, and encourage them to take time to recuperate.

Taking time to acknowledge your work helps make you want to continue doing good work. Accountability is what allows businesses to thrive. Without it, companies can fall apart, work ethic can disappear, and trust between the company and clientele will diminish.

By learning how to keep yourself and others around you accountable within your small business, you help promote healthy work balances, create safe work environments that can promote growth and learning, and help relations with clients blossom and grow into more profitable ventures.

For further assistance in creating an environment that promotes accountability in your small business, feel free to reach out to Comprehensive Consulting Solutions for Small Businesses. We are here to help!