Want to Reduce Stress?

Cultivate a workplace culture of high accountability.


A big contributor to the stress level of a shop owner today is the lack of accountability in his business. According to Dictionary.com the word “accountability” means “To be responsible to someone or for some action: answerable.” Accountability to me means simply, “Doing what you say, when you say, as you say. PERIOD!”

Accountability is critical to the success of a shop because there are high costs associated with low accountability. Here are just a few examples.

A shop’s reputation suffers with a culture of low accountability. With the accessibility of social media at the customer’s fingertips, the whole world knows instantly when a customer has a bad experience.

Time is wasted and productivity is lost due to poor communication, a natural byproduct of low accountability.

High employee turnover is another result of low accountability. Superstars won’t hang around a business where fingers are pointed and double standards prevail.

Low accountability shops lose both customer and employee trust. Trust takes years to build and only seconds to lose.

All of those byproducts of low accountability cause stress to skyrocket in the business owner, causing him to get frustrated and interact poorly with employees, causing employees to feel attacked and personally belittled, and in response, they shut down or get defensive. As a result the entire business suffers, which shows up on the bottom line.

A more successful approach is one with a culture of high accountability. When there is high accountability in a business, every employee understands and buys in to his or her role in the success of the business. The result? As accountability goes up, stress goes down. Here’s how to increase accountability in your organization.

Accountability is made up of three components, what I’ll call the 3Cs:

Create, Communicate, Cultivate


To cultivate a culture of accountability you must first get clear on your values, your business purpose, your company goal, the motivation behind each and your plan for getting there. You need a clear image in your mind of your dream business. This is the time to dream big. This mental image must vividly cover your desired financial performance, staffing requirements and both employee and customer experience. You know you have this exercise complete when you can illustrate your image so clearly that anyone else can actually “see” your finished product in his or her mind.

The image now created, your next step is to break down by position within the company each person’s responsibilities as they relate to the overall company goals. How does each employee contribute to your dream business? What attitudes and behavior does each employee need to succeed? What will the employee’s key areas of responsibility be? What are the goals and minimum levels of acceptable performance in each area? How will you measure the employee’s success? Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a brilliant image of each employee’s responsibilities.

With a clear vision of your business and how your employees help you achieve that
vision, you now move on to communication.


Now it’s time to sit down with your staff and share the values and mission of the business. This gives them an opportunity to become part of something bigger, to serve. While they may work for money, they live to know they matter and make a difference. You’ll also find that when employees feel they’re part of the business and its success, they’ll become more invested emotionally.

Go over what you need, and when and why you need it. Ask for staff input. Most managers and owners spend 95 percent of their time communicating what and when they need something with only 5 percent dedicated to why they are asking employees to do it. By flipping these numbers and investing 95 percent of your time communicating why you need it and 5 percent to what and when you need it, you’ll get that elusive “buy-in.” Buy-in happens when your employee is engaged emotionally, logically, and physically.

Buy-in (agreement) is the secret sauce to achieving high accountability because you can’t manage people; you can only manage their agreements.


Once you have buy-in, it’s time to cultivate that high accountability culture by measuring, providing feedback and designing an action plan for immediate improvement.

To quote an old business saying, “You have to inspect what you expect.” Measure, measure and measure again. This is where the rubber meets the road. By measuring your areas of responsibility on a daily basis, you’re showing each staff member that you’re serious and walking your talk. You reinforce continually that it’s important to them, to you and to the success of the business.

Measuring isn’t enough, though. You have to share your findings with each member of your staff individually. This isn’t the time to get on them for a lack of results.

It’s a time to get their thoughts on why they’re getting the current results. Once you have their side of what’s going on and you’ve dug into the paperwork to see how they can improve, it’s time to move to the next step.

It’s now time to give feedback using what I call the Four Rs. You’re going to

Recognize what they’ve achieved.

Redirect when your employee is learning something new.

Reprimand subpar behavior or results when your employee knows what to do or what to use.

Repercussions when reprimands don’t work.

When an employee gives you what you want, recognize their accomplishment, but be careful. You should applaud effort but only recognize results. Recognition in public reinforces the positive behaviors you want from that position in your business and shows other employees what you’re looking for from them.
If you don’t get the results you want from an employee, do a redirect. Celebrate what he did right and then bring him back to the beginning and show him what to do better. A great phrase to help you with this is, “Great job on (what they did right), next time let’s do (area that needs improvement).” It’s important to keep the learning experience positive and nurturing.

Let’s say you have an employee who knows what to do but isn’t doing it. That’s when you use a reprimand. Properly done, a reprimand condemns the behavior while encouraging the person. When reprimanding, be immediate and specific about the issue. Let the employee know you’re upset about the situation and then stay quiet for a moment to let how you feel soak in. Next, give the employee a pat on the back to let him know you know he’s better than this and that you believe he can do it. A reprimand is always performed in private and when it’s done, it’s done.

If a few reprimands don’t work, move on to repercussions. Repercussions are a progressive series of steps that if not heeded will cause the employee to “de-hire” himself. I say this because if your employee were doing what he or she was supposed to, they’d still have a job. It’s important to determine your repercussion steps in advance, while calm. A sample repercussion chain might look like this:

Verbal warning

Written warning

Suspension without pay


Please be aware this is only a guide. You need to come up with a series of repercussions that work for you.

Once you have the 3Cs in place at your shop, you’ll find everyone’s responsibilities are clearly allowing outstanding things to happen. Your business will be more productive, there will be fewer excuses to deal with and your stress level will be much lower.