Radical Accountability

Guest post by Stephen J. Cloobeck:
I was determined not to be a CEO who was content to preach to
my team. And so, against the advice and admonishments of “foolishness” from my
executive team, and just about everybody else, I decided to do something that
would show not only our guests but also our team members how truly committed I
was to radical accountability.
I announced that I was putting my business card – with my
personal cell number and direct email address – on the front desk of every
Diamond Resorts International property.
– “Stephen, that’s lunacy – you’re going to be inundated with
calls and emails.”
– “You can’t do it all.”
– “Imagine the precedent it will set.”
– “We don’t have the infrastructure – you’re setting us up to fail.”
– “No one’s done this before.”
– “What’s wrong with how we tackle correspondence now?”
– “Stephen, can you just listen to reason?”
While there were a million reasons not to put my
business card out in the open, there was one reason that, to me, trumped all
the other cautions, admonitions, and words-to-the-wise. Simple: If I was going
to ask my team members to embrace radical accountability, shouldn’t I be
willing to do the same?
In my mind, the gesture was a show of respect not only for
our guests but for our team members as well. If actions speak louder than
words, I wanted this simple act to communicate three messages: (1) you matter,
(2) I have your back, (3) your interests aren’t only in mind but also at heart.
My top advisors predicted a deluge of correspondence and
unreasonable guest requests to come pouring in. But what happened was precisely
the opposite.
In announcing this plan to our team members, we saw more
employees in more places do more to proactively optimize the guest
experience. If I was going to be accepting calls and answering guest emails at
all hours of the day and night, they had every reason to ensure that these
messages were positive in tone and content. And when I did get complaints or
special requests, we were able to judge them on their merit and handle those
cases independently. There was no bureaucracy. There were no middlemen. There
was no protocol. It was just saying yes to doing right – the Meaning of Yes.
Across the board and around the world, we saw guest satisfaction
increase. We heard more stories of more team members going out of their way to
deliver small acts of kindness to guests and, what’s more, to each other.
In short, because we set high expectations for ourselves – from
the CEO to entry-level valets – our people delivered.
Imagine if business leaders in other industries embraced
radical accountability. If CEOs of banks took customer calls, would employees
of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo continue to prioritize
profit over people? If CEOs of pharmaceutical companies heard directly from the
families of loved ones who depended on the medicines they make, would we still
hear of soaring price shifts in times of economic downturns?
I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that
embracing radical accountability and opening up direct communication from
guests and team members about their concerns, experiences, and priorities made
me a better leader. What’s more, it made us a better organization as a whole. It
can do the same for you and your business.
Radical accountability frames responsibility in positive
terms: What more can you achieve when you take true ownership? By that same
token, just as accountability is often framed in the negative, we tend to look
for defensive reasons to justify sticking to the status quo before opening
ourselves up to the possibilities of “what if?” My advice is: Be wary of the
status quo when it builds roadblocks between you and your end customers. The
closer you can connect to their expectations, the more you set up your
organization not just to meet them, but to exceed them.
accountability frames responsibility in positive terms: What more can you
achieve when you take true ownership?
Stephen J. Cloobeck, author of Checking
In: Hospitality-Driven Thinking, Business, And You, is a
self-made entrepreneur with more than thirty years’ experience across
every aspect of hospitality design, development, and deployment. As the
original founder and former CEO and chairman of Diamond Resorts
International (NYSE:DRII) – a business that grew to become the
second-largest vacation-ownership company worldwide with more than four hundred
properties across thirty-three countries in its portfolio – 
Cloobeck made a
name for himself as the industry’s most adamant advocate for radical customer
service, what he calls embracing the Meaning of Yes.
 For more information, please visit www.StephenJCloobeck.com.