Do You Want Better Results? Try Accountability!

By 1971, Clint Eastwood had become a world famous movie star, just a few years removed from playing a supporting role on the television series Rawhide. He’d since found fame as The Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and in the blockbusters Hang ‘em High and Where Eagles Dare.

Eastwood was ready for a new challenge, this time behind the camera. He told Lew Wasserman, the head of Universal Pictures, that he wanted to direct Play Misty for Me. Wasserman agreed, but told Eastwood he would not be paid for directing. Instead, Eastwood would get his actor’s salary and earn a percentage of the box office take.

Many actors previously had tried to make this transition. Some, like John Wayne, had failed. Others, like Charlie Chaplin, were extremely successful. Could Eastwood do it? Some thought not.

But given a budget, creative control and a deadline, Eastwood delivered. Play Misty for Me was shot in 21 days, finishing four days ahead of schedule. Eastwood came in $50,000 under the $725,000 budget.

Once released, the film grossed over $10 million in the US (equivalent to almost $58 million today).   Eastwood earned praise as both director and star, and co-star Jessica Walter was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Why was Eastwood successful in his first venture as a director? It was because Lew Wasserman held him accountable and Eastwood accepted the responsibility of being held accountable.

Earlier this week, George Will reviewed the long slide and demise of the city of Detroit. He wrote, “When there is no punishment for failure, failure proliferates.”

Most business owners and leaders are somewhere between Lew Wasserman and the city of Detroit when it comes to holding people accountable. Get too strict and your people accuse you of being a “micro-manager” but without anyone being held accountable your business will certainly fail.

I’ve always believed that people want to work for a “winning company.” But to play to win means people need to know “the score” and how they can contribute to scoring. Most companies share some metrics with employees to keep everyone informed. That’s a start.

I also believe that most people want to be held accountable. This goes back to our days in school, where students received regular feedback on homework, quizzes, tests and presentations. Progress reports and report cards were issued on time for everyone.

This is accountability and it is lacking in many organizations. Accountability is the glue that keeps people focused on their goals, maintains their engagement, and helps them to work as a team towards larger goals to help their company score and win.

Most people think accountability is punitive. It is not; it is simply verification of progress towards goals.

For accountability to be effective, seven ingredients are required. The first are the goals, or deliverables the individual has. These must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In order to be successful, a handful of goals should be established, otherwise there is a loss of focus.

The second is a clear understanding the resources currently available, and those that will be needed to achieve the goals.

Next is the reporting timeframe; it must be set and adhered to.

The fourth is that there must be a clear scorecard to track progress toward the goals. This scorecard needs to be visible to all those that are impacted.

Fifth, there must be an Action Plan to accompany each goal, updated as needed throughout the reporting period. The individual must write and execute the plan.

Sixth, the manager must set time aside to spend time with subordinates to measure progress, determine successes and misses, and be mature enough to coach and if necessary, counsel the employee to improve performance.

Finally, the owner needs to be invested and involved in the process. Accountability is not something for others and not for the owner; the owner has to lead by example just as the teacher does in school.

If you seek better results, ramp up the accountability. It will energize the engaged and flush out those who really aren’t interested in anything more than putting in their time for a paycheck.

If you’d more information about how to make this happen in your company, contact me.