Accountability...It is more than a fancy six syllable word. The business dictionary defines accountability as "The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner." Accountability is not a new tool; it is not constricted to the business world; and it is not limited to adults. We learn at a very young age to be answerable for our own actions. With the gift of free will and the ability to make tens of thousands of decisions for ourselves daily, we pretty much are the conductors of our own lives; however, we must also be held responsible for those actions and willing to accept any ramifications associated with them. In the next paragraphs, I will speak of the challenges associated with the expectations of personal and team accountability, the negative outcomes which may result by the lack of accountability within your dealership, and the benefits your organization will experience if accountability is implemented wisely.


The geographic separation accompanied by independent style employees creates a legitimate challenge when encouraging personal accountability. Working from home with flexible customized schedules leave employees confronted with a new freedom and an opportunity to exercise self-discipline, or not. A diversified workforce presents an additional challenge in the organization's efforts to accommodate everyone fairly and require conformity regarding levels of expectations. Inconsistent leadership practices and stringent consumer demands are additional facets which challenge the endorsement of clear accountability. Considering the high costs associated with a lack of accountability in the workplace, management must share the company's mission and vision and make certain every single employee maintains a clear comprehension. Every team member must be focused on a common goal to remain self-motivated, contributing to the overall success of the organization.


Along with the omission of a controlled workplace accountability, comes costly circumstances, which dramatically impact the bottom line in a negative fashion. Employee theft, low employee morale, high policy work, loss dollars due to inefficiencies, conflicts among team members, and reductions in customer retention are all common factors which are prevalent when accountability is not encouraged, practiced and enforced in the dealership. If each person is not answerable to their own actions, the culture breeds unfair business practices; meaning the responsible employees work harder and more proficiently, while the slackers take advantage of the lackadaisical environment.


I bet you are asking yourself, "So what can I do as a leader to promote accountability throughout the workplace?" First, lead by example. Exercise humility and take full responsibility if your department endures a failure. Don't play the "blame game"! To enjoy a culture where the entire team embraces the fine character trait of personal accountability requires consistency throughout the entire dealership, from lot attendants to the dealer principal! You are now thinking, "But how do I get each employee to acquire the desire and the passion to be accountable for what they do?" I have outlined 5 easy steps to follow which will guide you through the process:

  1. Share the company's vision. If providing a superior customer experience is your primary goal, share this with your entire team. Present the vision is a positive way, describing the "why" so they will understand the goal and how the company will benefit from its success.
  2. Inform them of your expectations so they understand the role they play, and fully comprehend the tasks involved at their level of participation. Help them to learn to prioritize what is important and balance tasks in the time appropriated for completing them. Provide them with the tools and training they need to perform all assigned tasks.
  3. Empower them to take ownership of their responsibilities. We are by nature more accountable and protective of that which is our own.
  4. Monitor their progress. Keep them informed as to the level of performance they are contributing. The business adage, "Inspect what you expect" comes to mind.
  5. Share the business' successes.   Share the good news and the bad news, the triumphs and the failures. Employees who take ownership want to be informed of the outcomes!

Now, take time to watch the benefits of team accountability grow to magnificent stature! Personal accountability will lead to entire workplace accountability and your bottom line will improve dramatically. Employee morale will sky rocket as team members will function daily at peak levels of performance. Effective and accountable leadership will build efficient teams with strong work ethics, again leading to enhanced profitability. Loss dollars due to lack of employee productivity will diminish. Consumer relationships built on respect and trust will be widespread over the entire organization, as every employee now understands the importance of each one of them extending the care and concern your customers deserve and expect! Again, profitability will rise to new heights and your dealership will reap the benefits of high customer retention!  

Employ accountability within your organization, as the alternative is far too costly!

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Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on October 10, 2012 at 7:15pm

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment Larry....Much appreciated!  Have a wonderful evening!

Comment by Larry Sherstad on October 10, 2012 at 7:05pm
Great job Nancy! If only more managers could/would take the time to recognize all employees are not the same. Personal coaching is so important in or business to ensure success.
Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on October 1, 2012 at 1:40pm

Wow...I appreciate all your comments and marvel at the diversity of the philosophy!  Tim, you certainly do not beat around the bush... Find your direct approach refreshing!  Tom, love the analogy and the identification of that missing tier...perhaps the most vital at that!  Let's keep the comments coming... Accountability is a must withing the culture today's consumer is demanding! 

Comment by Tom Wiegand on October 1, 2012 at 1:28pm

Very good, Nancy!  Getting one's arms around accountability within our retail auto franchise system has always proved challenging.  I liken it to comparing our professional franchise system to that of professional baseball.  Baseball is structured within 4 layers:  Ownership, Management, Coaching Staff, Players; while Auto is structured within 3 layers:  Ownership, Management, VOID, Players.  Why can't baseball get rid of the coaching staff and have management put uniforms on for games and play both positions?  As funny as we may consider this, isn't this what we expect in our world; for management to also somehow be professional coaches as well?  What professional sports team can exist on low 20% retention?   The accountability solution resides not so much at the ownership level, but certainly within the best coached teams!

Comment by Timothy Martell on October 1, 2012 at 10:36am

Nancy, love the article! You glossed over what I believe to be the most important component of achieving accountability in the dealership environment -- The dealer principle. Believe me, the industry is not "maturing." It is however, about mid-way through a complete "changing of the guard."

Soon, most dealer principle's will have retired and will have either sold, or passed their legacy's on to their children. While I hate to stereotype, as a general rule, anyone in the lucky sperm club whom is bequeathed a franchise or dealer group and is under the age of 40 will be much more likely to be aware and even embrace the change that you describe. Those in the over 40 club will be more apt to just continue on as things have always been. I would also raise that age group about another 10 years for female dealer principles now running their father's stores. 50+ not much going to change.

Of course, with any data set there will be outliers on both sides, but as a general rule this will hold true. Which means, nearly half of the dealer body will not change in any significant way until another generation of dealers takes the torch.

The bottom line is that without the commitment from a dealer principle for company wide accountability, one rarely has the ability to lead by example. Sometimes this role is fulfilled by the GM (when the DP is merely a check collector), but there must be a top down (strong) commitment to accountability. Otherwise, there will be no change, regardless of the examples set by one(or a few) individual(s).

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on September 30, 2012 at 11:55pm

Bobby, your validation is my source for ongoing passion to truly help change the industry!  Thanks!

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on September 30, 2012 at 11:54pm

Diane,  I truly appreciate your kind words!!!

Comment by NANCY SIMMONS on September 30, 2012 at 11:54pm

David, You are most welcome!  Mark...I believe we are on the brim of change...The industry is maturing and with maturity comes responsibility and accountability.  As you know better than anyone.... Reputation Management is not an option, but standard equipment!  With the widespread use of reviews by the consumers, we are AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY EXPOSED!  Whether we want it or not, there is transparency when it comes to the consumer!

Comment by David Long on September 30, 2012 at 11:46pm

Thank you Nancy!

Comment by Mark Dubis on September 30, 2012 at 4:55pm

First let me say everything you have shared is correct and great advice for any business person. We however live in a world where accountability is becoming a rare commodity.  Many people, especially politicians, educators, managers, etc. want to blame other people, circumstances or external forces for their failings.  Nobody it seems wants to be accountable for their actions or behaviors.

This is not to say our industry doesn’t want to change and improve, but often we don’t know where to start.   In item no. 2 you say the dealership should provide the tools and training people need to perform assigned tasks.  Because of high turnover, many stores feel it’s a waste of time to do much training as 1/3 of the team will be gone in 60 days.  So the first step is to get off the hiring/firing merry-go-round.

I love to see dealerships (and there are plenty of them) empowering their people to provide the best customer experience ever.  I love to see sales professionals building their personal brand, networking and prospecting and NOT waiting for the next UP on the lot.    Almost every dealer website says they put the customer first but they provide no real proof of that anywhere on the site.  Auto shoppers are seeing right through bogus or manipulated reviews.  They need to prove they are walking the talk.

Bottom line we must all be accountable to the customer or suffer the consequences.


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