Who has not gotten into this situation, whether at work or at home: “Oh, I thought Peter was going to do it”, “Wait, Peter thought Jenny had already taken care of it” – and so on.
Miscommunication can cause even important issues or tasks to slip through the cracks, leaving the company in trouble with no one to hold accountable for the task. Think about your own experience: have you ever sent an email adding five persons in the “to” field, and got zero replies or actions, just because no one thought they were the person responsible for seeing the issue through? I know it has happened to me, multiple times. And I have to admit, I have been in this situation on both sides of the communication line.
Clear roles, clear responsibility
At LS Retail we have been developing retail and hospitality software solutions for two decades. We live and breathe retail, so I want to take an example in this industry. If you work in retail, you know that inventory is one of the most important aspects in the business. In a store, there must always be enough (but not too many!) goods in stock to sell. For this reason, it’s imperative that the retail store manager checks the inventory on a frequent basis, making sure that orders come in when they are supposed to. Let’s imagine this situation: Alex, the manager of a retail store, mistakenly believes that the assistant shop manager, or one of the shop assistants, will report if a certain item is selling quickly. The assistant shop manager, on the other hand, doesn’t think this is her duty – and doesn’t report to Alex that a watch is selling quicker than expected. When the sought-after watch runs out of stock before its replenished, the shop is in trouble – and to make matters worse, there’s no one to take responsibility for it, or to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again.
If there’s a problem with any process in-store, the owner or store manager must know who the accountable person is – the go-to-guy who can help figure out what’s going wrong and why. If this person is missing, or if responsibility is diluted across different roles, expect problems.
I would be successful, if it weren’t for…
We managers sometimes take the easy way out, and instead of taking accountability for our shortcomings, we look for excuses when things go wrong. How many times have you heard this kind of sentence: “My restaurant would be successful, if it weren’t for…”.
I have been guilty of this myself, and not just once, but many times. After all, it’s easy to give a long list of reasons for poor performance, but it’s much harder to offer solutions. “If my restaurant isn’t successful, it’s because… these are hard times for business.” Sure, but what about your competitors who are thriving? Don’t they work in the same business climate? “My restaurant isn’t successful because… good staff is hard to find.” True – but could the problem lie elsewhere? What about your hiring practices? Are you giving employees the right training? Do you offer your staff fair treatment and compensation?
What we sometimes fail to understand – or actively choose to ignore – is that as managers, we are responsible!
So, what kind of manager are you? Do you play the part of the “victim” when the time to analyze the P&L statement comes around? Or do you stand up, and hold yourself accountable for your team’s results?
Leading by example
If you are in a management position, the best way to help build a culture of accountability in your company is to be the first to walk the walk. When your employees see you taking responsibility and following through on your commitments, they will be more likely to do the same. Accountability also fosters trust, which is essential in any business. In working environments with high levels of trust, people tend to focus more on solutions than on placing blame. Conversely, in workplaces with low levels of trust, the blame game is quite common – and “She was supposed to…”, “No, he said that he would…” takes over “How can we fix it?”
Let’s face it: whatever your business, in order to have an effective company, you must designate one accountable person for each project; an accountable party, who is responsible for getting the job done. This person can have many people help her do the work, but she is the one who needs to make sure that everything gets done, from A to Z.
This is the only way to ensure that everybody in the company takes responsibility, and that your company culture becomes one where accountability is the norm.