When things go wrong in business, we’re quick to blame outside influences. In franchising, that frequently means economic conditions and in many cases, economic factors are contributory. But in the current climate where franchising’s reputation is fragile, extreme accountability could provide a way forward that moves the sector to greener pastures and helps businesses thrive again.

Accountability is about a person accepting responsibility for their role, actions, attitudes and their outcomes and outputs. It is almost always a value that underpins performance in any successful business and for good reason – It builds trust between one another, it instills confidence in teams and it drives excellence.

But human nature means we have a tendency to accept accountability when the outcome is good, and steer away from it when the outcomes aren’t so good. Extreme accountability gives us the opportunity to change that – and it’s good for ourselves, it’s good for business and it’s good for franchising as a sector.


Extreme Accountability

Extreme accountability takes accountability to another level, and can become one of the most powerful leadership tools we have. As a Leader, it is accepting responsibility regardless of the outcome and particularly when it is not directly your fault!  It is saying to yourself: ‘no matter what, this is my responsibility – what have I learned’’.

Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, author of Extreme Ownership, shared his experience with extreme accountability in a TED talk (watch the video below). While in charge of an operation in Iraq a series of mistakes led to the mission ending in chaos and ‘’friendly’’ fire. These mistakes resulted in the death or injury of several people – all on his own team.

When faced with a debrief on what went so very wrong, he refused to point the finger at any person – not one of them. It was his mission, it was his plan, it was his leadership that led them to the incident. He did not pull the trigger that killed the man, but he was in charge of every man out there, they were on his command and it was his mission. He took full responsibility for the events of that day and simply said, “it was my fault”.

Not only that, he stood there after accepting full responsibility and presented his superiors with a range of strategies and tactics he had thought through to make sure that something like that never happened again.

And do you know what happened?

He didn’t get fired or dismissed. He wasn’t scolded or scorned. His reputation wasn’t diminished. Instead, he was respected because he had put his ego aside and showed brave leadership. He had provided a way for the team to move forward with confidence, not knowing if he was even going to be part of it.  He accepted both responsibility for the outcome (people dead and injured) and responsibility to learn and improve from the experience.

That is extreme accountability.

The argument for extreme accountability in franchising

Extreme accountability gives every business owner, franchisor or franchisee an opportunity. An opportunity to custom design a culture of success and ongoing learning.  A culture of teamwork. A culture of excellence.

Being able to accept responsibility for the good, the bad and the ugly (no matter how ugly), can only be powerful when it is coupled with the maturity and humility to look inside and learn from what happened.

How often do we see that happening in franchising? How often do we see a company blame their failures on the economy, or labour costs, or the cost of rent, or the inadequate franchisee instead of turning the view inside and assessing what was their individual contribution towards the failure?  What can be learned?  Every franchise failure or adverse situation is the opportunity to learn.

Outcome of Using Extreme Accountability

Jocko shared that out of extreme accountability came two important things; trust and inspirational leadership.  His superiors trusted him more because of his acceptance of the failures and his team wanted to follow his actions and practice this same level of responsibility.

That’s how powerful extreme accountability can be. It moves you forward to a place of growth, team unity and creates a culture where excellence can be achieved.

What do you think about extreme accountability?  Do you practice it? Do you think it will help franchisors,  franchisees and the franchise sector as a whole?

Tell us what you think in the comments below.