Accountability versus d?j? vu
Prior to my current role as a freelance hotel strategist, I spent more than 20 years in 15 hotels (lots of movement within the same companies). I remember sitting in a staff meeting in my seventh hotel and I thought to myself, I have heard this all before —same breakdowns, same communication misdemeanors, same guest and associate issues. It dawned on me that this was probably happening in thousands of other hotels as well.
So, when I landed my first GM gig, I was determined to have different conversations and at least different breakdowns. In order to make progress, I needed to ascertain the “current reality,” then look for what was missing. This is when I first discovered for myself what’s missing in most businesses today.
I believe most companies try to hire the right people. They share their values and policies and train employees on necessary skills, review them in 30 to 90 days, and really expect the best out of them. So what’s still missing after all these training programs, posters, the money spent on speakers and corporate teams coming in? Why do the same breakdowns happen over and over again, and our business feels like déjà vu?
Yes, people are unpredictable. So are hurricanes, but the more experience we have with them, the more forearmed we try to become. Those of you who have been following me for a while know what the summa cum laude answer is. Culture, of course!
You can create any culture you wish, including the culture you get by ignoring the culture you want. One of the fundamental principles I always use in building a culture is the principle of accountability.
For a moment, let’s go back to the importance of the distinction of language — how it is used and the effects it has. I see accountability as different from responsibility. Good leaders know these are not interchangeable terms, and I have proven time and again that you can build accountability throughout the organization. To be accountable is to personally take ownership of something with unflinching commitment and integrity. Responsibility smacks more of a burden to bear and something that can either be given to you or received by you. Responsibility can be thrust upon you from the outside. For example, “I am accountable for the results of this organization” rings with confidence and drive. Conversely, “I am responsible for the results of this organization” sounds like someone gave you the keys to hold. I suggest that when accountability is a guiding principle in your organization, you will have less and less of the same old breakdowns because more accountability means more ownership.
As an example, in one of the last hotels I consulted for, as a direct consequence of establishing a culture of accountability a houseman informed the MOD and left a note for the director of design to say he couldn’t clean the landings last night because of xyz. Prior to the shift in culture, even though he held the same responsibility, if you found the landings weren’t clean and then found the houseman, he would have had an excuse as a retort, and the guests would have already walked through the deed undone.
So, when looking to create cultures that drive extraordinary results, begin with creating accountability as a core value. Teach the difference, walk the talk and hold accountability as an integral part of your culture, performance reviews and what you are committed to achieving.
Leave déjà vu to Crosby, Stills and Nash!