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Sweeping Employee Training and Management

100% Accountability:
Something to Strive For

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Mike Scott believes we can all learn to become 100% accountable for all of our actions, 100% of the time. That means, he says, doing what you say you're going to do no matter what.

Accountability: During his naPSa-sponsored seminar at this year's National Pavement Exposition, Scott provided a number of ideas and recommended actions designed to help attendees permeate the concept of accountability throughout their companies. Accountability creates magic in any type of relationship, business or personal. Always go for and expect 100% accountability 100% of the time. Think how you'd feel if you were flying in and out of O'Hare airport in Chicago and they told you they had planned on going for a level of 99.9% accountability on that day. Since they're landing and taking off 1,000 flights in a day, what that would mean is one of the planes is going down.

Mike Scott

Making Changes: "Remember," Scott told us, "we change only when the pain of where we are is worse than the pain of where we want to be. In other words, there has to be a payoff for making the change."

Victim mentality: "Oh poor me" is the underlying theme of what people say who act like victims. People who act like victims don't perform the work they agreed to do and still expect to be paid. They blame others and circumstances. Management/employees/customers all need to be totally accountable and be held totally accountable. The 80/20 rule relates to the number of victims in companies. Victims, who average about 20% of a company's employees, take up 80% of someone elses time.

Managers sometimes tolerate, and even pay people who act like victims in their workplace, but wouldn't want to deal with a '20 percenter' when having a surgical procedure done. NASCAR is an excellent example of an entire team having accountability. Everyone always is there and performing their job at a high level. Victims have been known to be the cause of good performers leaving a firm because they had to do the work of the non-performer.

Not just hearing, but ensuring a clear understanding: Statistics show that over 50% of what we say is either not heard, or it is misunderstood, or it is misinterpreted.

Successful meetings: When you have a meeting, be sure to have an agenda. Have an action plan template on the back of your agenda. (You can download one from Mike's website at Have all participants write down all the specific actions steps they agree to take on the action plan template. This provides a record of what they need to do as well as when it is due. The meeting leader keeps a master list of all delegated and agreed-to items in a spreadsheet for ease of recovery.

Have everyone in the meeting read back his or her action steps before the meeting ends. Don't send out a summary of the meeting, because people will then wait for the summary to take action. They already have their confirmed actions steps with them on the back of their agenda on the action plan template. No surprises are allowed. A surprise occurs when someone comes to a meeting and reports that they have not completed something they said they would do. You should have been apprised of that before the meeting began.

Staying in the 'adult': Be sure to stay 'adult' in your conversations and expectations. When someone is treated like a child, that's what he or she will act like.

Leadership: A real leader does all s/he can to help everyone involved -- including subordinates, peers, employees, vendors, and customers -- be as successful as possible.

Two books that are full of leadership ideas are "Nuts," by Kevin Freiberg, which is the story of Southwest Airlines. Another is "Leadership," by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The goals of Southwest Airlines, a leader in its industry, are to be the most on-time, lowest cost to customers and least number of customer complaints. They succeed every day. And, even though they pay below industry standard wages they have a long waiting list of people who would like to work for them.

What employees expect: All employees ask of us is that we provide a work environment that is safe, productive, challenging, and harmonious with a fair rate of pay, and a fair level of benefits.

If an employee doesn't want to do what they're asked to do at work, and which they are being paid for, then they should leave and go somewhere else to "not work."

Excuses: The dollar value of an excuse is $0.00. Simply decide you won't have people around you who let you down, but expect to get paid for it. Some employees will want to get a paycheck without doing the work of their job description, and if they can do that they'll think it's great. Scott calls paying for non-performance, "Workplace Welfare."

First of all, if you don't want people around you giving you excuses, you have to model the correct behavior. Beginning today, stop giving excuses to anyone, on any topic.

Second, as a leader, be the model. Stop accepting excuses today. Your customers won't accept excuses and still pay for services and products. Act the same way with your internal service providers. Don't allow excuses. Only the promised results are allowed.

Scripting: Third, when someone gives you an excuse for something they didn't do, stop asking, "Why didn't you do that?" That questions invites excuses.

You need to change the scripting so that it doesn't include asking that question. Instead, ask three questions:
"What's the next step to get it done?"
"When are you going to do that?"
"Can I count on you for that?"

They lead to the action now and in the future, and that leads to accountability.

Use the responses on the above list in the order shown. If you start with the second question, they could just keep giving you a new date and not doing the action. That's why you always ask them what they're going to do first; only then, ask when they'll be doing it. Finally, you say "Can I count on you for that?"

If someone tells you they don't know how to do something, tell them: "I know you don't know, but if you did know, what do you think you would do?"

Letting go of the non-performers: If people shouldn't be in your organization, get rid of them. In organizations that require an "Act of Congress" to get rid of someone, that company will attract people that it will take an "Act of Congress" to get rid of. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. It also drives off good people and ruins morale. In the movie, "Field of Dreams," Kevin Costner's character hears the first voice say, "If you build it, he (they) will come." The more accountable you build your organization to be, the more accountable people will want to come work for you.

The accountability letter: This letter is given to all job applicants at one specific company before they are interviewed. "A letter to job applicants from the president of the company. All employees who work for this company came to work with the following understanding. It is our policy to pay only for results. We will not pay for excuses. We will not pay for blaming. We will not pay for whining. If you feel you can work under these challenging and requiring conditions, then we can move on the to next step of the interviewing process."

Saying "No": It is important that you teach people how to say, "No." Not just, "No," but, "No" with a solution. Tell everyone, "From now on you can always tell me "no," but you have to give me a solution about how it will happen anyway. This gives the person who knows something can't be done the opportunity to communicate a solution to you about still getting it done, rather than just saying, "Yes," and disappointing you.

"I'll try": Scripting around "I'll try" and "It depends." When someone says "I'll try," say "I know you are going to try, but what I want to know is can I count on you for the results?" Keep coming back to that statement. Once you get agreement, then you should get action. If you don't, then go back to "What's the next step to get it done?"

Don't get hooked: Don't get 'hooked' or 'give the look.' What this means is that you need to avoid reacting negatively when a person, place, or thing "gets" to you. Rather, the only energy should be doing what it takes to move the conversation on positively toward the desired result. Giving "the look" to someone is dangerous because we all know the expression, "If looks could kill." Leaders don't get hooked or give the look. They stay in the adult mode.

Be strong enough to get rid of people who really don't want to do the work they are being paid to do, by asking them to move on to something else at another company.

The Four Keys to Effective Delegation

Ensure clarity about the expected results. Repeat back what is delegated and discuss it, if necessary, to clear up any misconceptions.

Give a specific date and time of completion. A road to failure is to say "do it when you get time," or "sometime next week." You have to nail down specifics. If a customer says, "Get it done whenever you can get to it," and if you wait to when you can get to it, and they expected it sooner that you "can get to it," you have failed in their eyes.

Set a follow-up date, and set it before the deadline.

Hold yourself, and other people, 100% accountable. Do not let a deadline pass without accountability. This means if you can't get it done by the deadline, go to whomever you owe the task to and let them know it won't happen and set a new date for completion.

Wrapping all of this up is the next statement: the moment an employee realizes that the agreement they made with you cannot be met, they contact you personally, with a solution.

The above means that someone else cannot pass along the information that another party is not going to meet the deadline. No e-mail or voice mail may be allowed to carry the message, either. Let it be known throughout the organization that this task must be done personally. Whether it's customers or employees, this is the way to ensure a far better result.

Never forgetting anything again: The secret to never forgetting anything is writing it down and remembering where you wrote it. The Master To Do List is a system to never forget anything. This form can be downloaded from Mike Scott's website at The columns are:

P is for Priority;
M is for 'Must do;
N is for Need to do;
W is Want to do;
D is for Delegation;
$Value/Time (i.e., is it an income producing activity; if not, don't do it in income-producing time.)
Day or date to complete must be filled in for M's and N's.
By Whom column is used when something is to be delegated.

Put this form into a spreadsheet and sort on any column. You never forget anything ever again and all of your "to do's" are totally and forever organized the way you want. You never have to write the same To Do again.

The daily plan for getting the most important things done: The six most important things I have to do today form, downloadable from, is designed to give you the ability to constantly work on the most important things everyday, and still handle the daily interruptions.

Complete the form before you leave work by listing the six most important things you have to do the next day. Then, prioritize the six in order of importance. No appointments go on this sheet. Appointments are handled in your calendar. The next workday, begin working on number one. If you get interrupted, take care of the interruption, and return to number one. Don't work on number two until you complete number one. Do this for 30 days and watch the level of meaningful productivity increase.

The bottom line: The bottom line of Scott's presentation was that our customers only pay for the results we promised. They will not accept and pay for an excuse for nonperformance of any kind. We are the internal customers of all of the employees we hire. As a real leader, we have no right to allow non-performance and then pay for non-performance. It reinforces non-performance and creates a real discord among the performers who are having to do the work of the non-performers.

If you want more information on this or other presentations, call Mike Scott toll-free at 800-990-6540, send an e-mail to, or go to

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