Make People Accountable and Responsible!

By George Hedley My guess is that scheduling crews and dealing with people drives you crazy and keeps you up at night. When I speak at conventions, I often ask construction owners and managers to tell me what their perfect business would be like. The common answer is a company without people! But the second… Continue reading Make People Accountable and Responsible!
By George Hedley

George Hedley

My guess is that scheduling crews and dealing with people drives you crazy and keeps you up at night. When I speak at conventions, I often ask construction owners and managers to tell me what their perfect business would be like. The common answer is a company without people! But the second most important ingredient to business success is finding and keeping excellent people. (No. 1 is customers.) Without good help, you’ll never make any profit or grow your business.

Are you a Firefighter?

Do you feel like a firefighter running from one fire to another with only a garden hose? Do you feel like all you do is put out everyone else’s fires? Do you do your employee’s work all day and yours’ all night? Do you wish your people were more accountable? Why don’t they take on more responsibility? In a recent poll of field employees, 66 percent were asked to make decisions, but only 14 percent feel empowered and trusted to make the decision. They’re afraid their boss will yell at them if they make the wrong choices or a mistake. So rather than risk it, employees don’t take on more than they have to. The root of most people problems is the boss, not the employee.

Who Owns the Problem?

When the boss owns every problem, only he or she can solve them correctly. When you solve other people’s problems for them, they rely on you to solve all their problems. When people aren’t actually responsible to solve problems, how can they be responsible for solutions? Do your employees rely on you to solve their problems? Do they depend on you to make most decisions for them? Each person who works for you wants to be accountable and responsible for some part of their job. It’s your job to let go and get them doing what you pay them to do. Without empowered people you’ll never grow your business.

You Can’t do it all Yourself!

Small business owners start out as the sole proprietor making every decision. Successful business owners realize they can’t do it all themselves and seek people they can trust, delegate to and grow with. Bigger companies have levels of responsible people who make most everyday business decisions.

The No. 1 reason employees don’t accept accountability or responsibility is they don’t know exactly what you want them to do. You tell them, but they really don’t fully understand what you want. So they’re afraid to go for it for fear of the reaction when things aren’t done the desired way. The No. 2 reason employees don’t accept responsibility is that their boss doesn’t really trust them with making decisions. Do you tell your people what to do and then say, “Before you do that, check with me first”?

5 Steps to Make People Accountable and Responsible

1. Establish Clear Expectations and Understanding

Make people clearly understand what you want them to do. When asked, over 66 percent of employees don’t know specifically what they’re asked to do, what’s expected, or what results should be accomplished and by when. To ensure people know what you want, tell them, show them and then draw a visual picture to explain it again. People remember what they see, not what they hear.

Poor managers take on the supervisor’s job and micro-manage their foreman several times a day. They make sure things are progressing properly, order all materials, make the necessary phone calls, and schedule the required labor and equipment. In other words, they don’t let their foreman make any decisions about the actions required to achieve the desired end results. A good leader would call a team meeting and help the foreman create an action plan for the crew.

2. Create a Scorecard and Tracking System

To make people accountable and responsible, there must be milestones and deadlines to achieve and track. Team members need to know how they stand to meet your goals and expectations. Without a tracking system, people can’t be accountable for results without daily knowledge of progress.

I created a “Hardhat Scorecard” to track the progress of job activities for our team to set and review on a daily or weekly basis. At the beginning of each project phase, get the team together to discuss the goals you want to track and achieve.

3. Define Levels of Authority

To avoid confusion, misunderstandings and build trust with people, they must clearly know what their level of authority is. Can they buy materials or tools? How much can they spend without approval from their boss? Can they commit the company or hire and fire? What decisions are they authorized to make on their own?

I learned my people make better decisions than I do. They’re more careful with my money than I am. Given clear rules and parameters, your people will become great team leaders. Given no or little authority keeps them un-accountable and un-responsible. When I increased the maximum spending limit for my foreman to $1,000, they were able to handle most of the little day-to-day decisions. This allowed them to grow and become fully accountable team leaders.

4. Be a Coach, Not a Controller

People want to be coached, not controlled. When a crew isn’t accountable or responsible, it’s a reflection of the coach’s total control dictatorship. The more you control, the less people do for themselves. The more decisions you make for them, the less decisions they make. The more questions you answer for them every day, the less they have to think and learn. Is that what you want? Good coaches train their people regularly. Have team meetings to review progress. Ask team leaders to think for themselves and call their own plays. Your job is to explain what’s expected and provide feedback as to their progress. Use regular check in times, follow up and stay in touch. But don’t do it all for them!

5. Celebrate and Reward Success

When accountable and responsible people achieve great results they need to be thanked and rewarded. It’s your job to set up a fun, competitive and simple system to reward success. At your regular job or company meetings, pick out two people to recognize for a job well done.

Make it Happen!

By implementing these simple steps, your people will grow and want to take on more responsibility. The key is your decision to make it your responsibility to let go of accountability. Get started by taking three things off of your to-do list and delegate them to someone else.

George Hedley is a licensed professional business coach, popular professional speaker and author of “Get Your Business to Work!” available at his online bookstore. To learn more, visit or email