Every executive (startup or otherwise) needs to be accountable to the rest of the leadership team and the company’s board. This is pretty obvious. It is perhaps even more critical at startups compared to larger companies as larger companies typically have more executives who can mitigate the negative impact of one under-performer.
In my experience, lack of willingness to be accountable is one of the leading “business” reasons for executives resigning or getting fired. I write “business” reasons to set them apart from non-work related matters. Here are some red flags for non-accountability:
- Failure to communicate in terms that are clear and concise. This might be a sign of communication inability or just dancing around lack of good results.
- Failure to give explanations that make business sense. I have seen this from engineering heads, for example. Even for complex engineering problems the head of engineering needs to be able to explain to the rest of the team what those problems are and how they are being solved.
- Failure of a sales executive to talk actual numbers ALL the time. This is a big one. To have any credibility, the head of sales must be crazily numbers focused. Building customer relationships only goes so far – getting orders is what counts ultimately.
- Hearing “almost done” too many times. Almost done = not done.
- Inability to deliver simple things to CEO after repeated requests. This needs no explanation.
I would love to see some more red flags in the comments so please chime in. If you see red flags, act quickly, which is often very hard to do.