Clear goals key in making your staff accountable

As a leader, set the path and create an environment where the team feels safe to talk about their problems & mistakes and learn from the collective wisdom. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A wealthy man was once walking on the road saw a beggar on the sidewalk. The rich man stopped and asked why he was begging. The beggar said, "Sir, I've been unemployed for a year now. You look like a rich man. Give me a job and I’ll stop begging." The rich man smiled and said, "I want to help you. But I won't give you a job. I'll do something better. I want you to be my business partner. Let's start a business together. The beggar blinked hard. He didn't understand what the older man was saying.

"What do you mean, Sir?” I own a rice plantation. You could sell my rice in the market. I'll provide you with the sacks of rice. I'll pay the rent for the market stall. All you'll have to do is sell my rice. And at the end of the month, as business partners, we'll share the profits. Tears of joy rolled down his cheeks. "Oh Sir," he said, "You’re a gift from heaven. You're the answer to my prayers. Thank you!" He then paused and said, Sir, how will we divide the profits? Do I keep 10 per cent and you get 90 per cent?

The rich man shook his head and chuckled. "No, I want you to give me the 2 per cent. And you keep 98 per cent. The beggar couldn't speak. He couldn't believe his ears. The deal was too good to be true. The rich man smiled. He said, "I don't need the money, my friend. I'm already wealthy beyond what you can ever imagine. I want you to give me 2 per cent of your profits so you grow"

The beggar knelt down and said, "Yes Sir, I will do as you say. I'm so grateful for what you're doing for me"! The beggar now dressed a little bit better, operated a store selling rice in the market. He worked very hard. He woke up early in the morning and slept late at night. And sales were brisk, also because the rice was of good quality. And after 30 days, the profits were astounding. At the end of the month, as the former beggar was counting the money, and liking the feeling of money in his hands, an idea grew in his mind.

He told himself, why should I give two percent to my business partner? I didn't see him for the whole month! I was the one who was working day and night for this business. I did all the work. I deserve 100 per cent of the profits.


The rich man came to collect his two percent of the profits. The former beggar said, "You don't deserve the two percent. I worked hard for this. I deserve it all!"

Any discussion on accountability at the workplace is often construed as a form of confrontation or punishment. But it is not so, here are a few ways of setting up the rhythm for accountability.

1. Clear goals and expectations: Accountability is not about micromanagement. Accountability is about posing faith in the team to do the right things the right way

2. Accept mistakes: As a leader, set the path and create an environment where the team feels safe to talk about their problems & mistakes and learn from the collective wisdom

3. Channelise Communication: Set clear paths of communication, to give feedback and most importantly to take feedback. An “I know it all attitude” never works

4. Accountability with responsibility & authority: Responsibility, authority and accountability all go hand-in-hand, pull anyone out of the equation & it all fails

5. Be a problem solver, not a whiner: Accountability does not end with doing what has been told, but it begins with understanding what needs to be done and ends at doing it, no matter what.