I have often had the opportunity to serve family businesses where accountability is alive and well and the resulting culture of accountability provides a competitive advantage. Likewise I have seen plenty of family businesses where the lack of accountability is a perpetual topic of discussion, there are little or inconsistent consequences when people fail to deliver, and accountability seems like an elusive dream. Often family businesses that lack a culture of accountability also have contentious relationships which are a drain on both family and business energy and resources.
So what are some of the distinguishing factors for those family businesses where a culture of accountability is a reality?
Shared Values – Shared values are the foundational building block to accountability as they inform what attitudes and behaviors are expected and provide broad guidelines for family member interaction with one another and with the business.
Shared Vision – A shared vision provides a clear understanding of where both the family and the business are going and how one supports the other. A shared vision provides the context within which results can be gauged and is the connection to a purpose larger than any one individual. It is this connection that creates the incentive to contribute to the overall good.
Freedom of Choice – Accountability is built through freedom of choice to contribute on the part of the individual. Absent a voluntary choice to contribute, there are too many ways to blame others for behavior and results that don’t measure up. The motivation to be accountable is derived from the satisfaction of choosing to contribute.
Certainly articulating goals, roles, policy, procedures, consequences, etc. to provide additional clarity on expectations can be helpful to developing a culture of accountability. However, no amount of structure will substitute for shared values, a shared vision, and freedom of choice when it comes to making accountability an achievable reality in your family business.