Is Accountability Reluctance Hurting Your Small Business?

By REDC Business Advisor Kerri Salls


A neon sign saying "This is the sign you've been looking for"

Accountability is a concept with several meanings. It is often used synonymously with responsibility, answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving.


It’s the idea of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or ‘to account for one's actions’ that makes many people reluctant to commit to one more accountability system, e.g., for their business.


There are established systems of accountability in most area of life. Think of laws at the federal or state level we are all accountable to abide by. There are rules and regulations for towns, schools, police, and the military. In our personal lives we grow into accepting responsibility for our actions, our relationships, our finances, and our families.


In the business world employers are accountable to a board of directors, investors, stockholders, and employees. Employees are accountable to the team and management.

With an abundance of evidence around of what works and doesn’t work in terms of accountability, and numerous examples of systems our peers and mentors model for us; why is it, when we become business owners, all those disciplines and habits get left behind?


I’ve had clients on both sides of this divide. Some had systems of accountability built into their corporate jobs, but dropped them as part of their new self-employment rebellion. I’ve also had other clients who were hungry for some form of accountability they could apply to their own enterprise because they couldn’t extrapolate that structure from their former career to their new business.


Woman at desk with laptop

I believe we all need accountability for support, focus, making better decisions, problem-solving, excellence, and achieving our goals.


In his blog, on leadership and accountability, Michael Hyatt asks what accountability looks like. He says,

“First and foremost, it means that you accept responsibility for the outcomes expected of you—both good and bad. You don’t blame others. And you don’t blame the external environment. There are always things you could have done—or still can do—to change the outcome.”


As an entrepreneur, if you don’t get things done and stay on top of them, they don’t get done. You need a system to do that.


Person's hand writing in journal

Even if accountability reluctance has been ingrained in your business, here are four easy options to consider. You can use one or all four. Most important is to become accountable to yourself and your business to ensure you achieve the goals you set for the year.


Journal – Purchase an attractive hardbound journal or just grab a spiral bound notebook at Staples. The form is not important. Writing in it regularly is the key. Keep it focused. You can use it to vent, to dream, to plan, to work through options or long-term plans. It’s the process that will clarify your ideas and help you move forward.


Since no one else sees your journal, you can also be very honest about what goals or targets you are missing and why. And use your journal time to develop alternatives that will help you achieve your goals.


Weekly Accountability Log – Create a form with 4-6 key questions to ask yourself at a regularly scheduled time (e.g., Friday 4pm or Monday 8am) about what you accomplished in the past week, what did not get done, why, why these were important, what the priorities are for next week are, and where you need help to stay on track.


Mastermind Group – For anyone reluctant or resistant to accountability, this one is a bit tougher. Join or create your own mastermind group. They are great for collaboration and problem-solving. They are outstanding for keeping everyone’s toes to the fire to accomplish what you say you will by your self-imposed deadline. The accountability here is what gets the results.


A Business Advisor – Unlike a boss in your old J-O-B, a confidential business advisor will keep you on track and help you discover and overcome your reluctance toward measurable accountability along a proven path to achieve your goals. Engaging an advisor keeps you on track and gives you an impartial sounding board. The Regional Economic Development Center offers free business advising to New Hampshire businesses who are just starting out or looking to grow an established business.


To maximize results and thereby achieve your goals for your business, overcome your reluctance and commit to at least one form of accountability.