Category Archives: Accountability

Inside the Function

“Take your most important internal function,” Pablo instructed. “In the beginning, likely will be operations. What is the work most closely related to producing the product or delivering the service? Especially in the beginning, that is mostly short-term work, 1 day to 3 months. Most production roles have a supervisor, with longer term goals and objectives, 3 months to 12 months. The supervisory role is to make sure production gets done, completely, on time, within spec.”

“So, every production person knows they have a supervisor?” I added.

“And, every supervisor knows they have a manager,” Pablo smiled. “This is the beginning of structure, nested goals and objectives related to successive roles (context), a production role, to a supervisory role to a managerial role.”

“The roles are distinguished by longer timespan goals and objectives?” I suggested.

“Yes, the roles are different in that way, but also in the way they relate to each other. Organizational structure begins with nested timespan goals, but also includes the way we define two things associated with those role relationships.”

“Accountability and authority?” I chimed in.

Pablo nodded. “In this working relationship between the team member and the supervisor, what is the accountability? What is the authority?”

My turn to show off. “The accountability on the part of the team member is to apply their full capability in pursuit of the goals and objectives agreed to by their supervisor, in short, to do their best. It is the accountability of the supervisor to create the working environment that makes those goals and objectives possible (probable). It is the accountability of the supervisor for output.”

“And, the authority?” Pablo prompted.

“The authority to make decisions and solve problems appropriate to the level of work in the task.”

The Framework of Structure

“Organizational structure based on the timespan of related goals and objectives?” I repeated, as a question. “Has to be more complex that that.”

“Of course. Organizational structure is complex,” Pablo replied. “But, that is where is starts, looking at the level of work, goals and objectives.”

“A bit overwhelming,” I surmised. “Still looks like a large kettle of fish.”

Pablo nodded in agreement. “After the vision and mission, the founder must examine the internal functions required to kickstart the company. And, remember, this is an infant company, so there aren’t that many internal functions. Producing the product, delivering the service, finding a customer willing to pay and a way to deposit the money into the bank. That’s it, in the beginning.”

“So, in the beginning, following the vision and mission, I have to define the first functions required to produce the product or service. And in each function, determine the goals and objectives?”

“And, the ‘by-when’ of each goal will tell you the level of work required. That is the beginning of structure.”

Matching the Work

“I’m a structure guy,” Pablo said. “When you think about effective managerial leadership, I think the focus is on the structure.”

“It’s not on charisma, likeability, luck?” I asked, knowing the answer.

Pablo gave me a knowing smile. “The first key area for any manager, is to design and build the team. Individual achievement is a myth. If you want to create something great, it takes a team, a collection of teams, organized to get work done.”

“Before I do anything else, I have to build the team?” I wanted to know.

“Before you build the team, you have to design it,” Pablo continued. “That’s where most companies make their first missteps. As time goes by, there is too much to do, always work left over. Someone has a brilliant idea, let’s hire some more people. And, they do this without any thought of the overall design of the team to get work done.”

“So, first I have to think about the work?”

“And, not just task assignments, we have to figure out what problems must be solved and what decisions have to be made. With that, then we have to determine the level of problem solving and the level of decision required on the team, to make sure when we start to match up the people, we can select the right ones.”

All About the Work

“Brent, let me get this straight. You said that your salespeople may not be doing their best because they may not be interested in the work? Do your salespeople understand the work?”

“You’re right! Sometimes, it’s like they are brain dead. They are just mechanistic, going through the motions,” Brent described.

“So, they understand the prescribed duties, show up, make a presentation, ask for the order. But let me confirm, they may not understand the problems that must be solved or the decisions that must be made to create a successful sale?”

“Exactly, I mean we train them and train them again on the presentation, until they have it memorized, down cold, but you are right, that does not make a successful sale. The success of the sale depends much more on the questions they ask and the data they collect about the customer’s problem.”

“So, as the Sales Manager, do you sit with your team and talk about the problems that must be solved and the decisions that must be made during the sales call? That’s where the work is. That’s where the excitement is. That’s where the challenge is. If you are looking for interest from the salesperson, the connection is in the work, not the prescribed duties.”

A Sale That Sticks

“You are going to have to go slow, because I am still not getting it,” Brent shook his head.

“In order to close the sale by the end of the second sales call, what are the problems that must be solved and the decisions that must be made by the salesperson?” I repeated.

“Well, we know that to make a sale that sticks, that doesn’t get canceled or delayed, we have to collect certain information, then do some research and then present a case that is difficult to resist. Right now, it can’t even be, just a good deal. It has to be difficult to turn down.

“If the first meeting is going too fast or the data we collect is too superficial, we cannot do the analysis and we won’t be able to make an irresistible offer. The salesperson has to use judgment to determine if the information is right. It’s almost a gut decision.”

“So, the work of the salesperson is using discretion to judge the pace and quality of data collected in the first sales call?” I confirmed.

“Absolutely, the customer, in the first three minutes will tell you how this sale is going down, if you listen.”

Not Just Showing Up

“I’m still not following you. Showing up, making a presentation and getting the order, is not the work of a salesperson?” Brent protested.

“Those are valid activities, prescribed duties, but not the work,” I replied. “Tell me, on every sales call, what must be discovered about the prospective customer, before a sale can be made?”

“Well, you have to find out the customer’s need. If they don’t need it, they are not going to buy it, especially right now.”

“And what is the goal?”

“To write the order,” Brent shot back.

“By when?” I asked.

Brent stopped. “We have sort of a two-call closing process,” he finally concluded. “The salesperson needs to write the order by the end of the second call.”

“So, tell me, what are the problems that must be solved, what are the decisions that must be made by the salesperson to reach the goal by the end of the second sales call? Because that’s the work.”

What Are the Decisions?

“You mean they might not be doing their best, because they are not interested in the work?” Brent repeated.

“So, tell me what is it, about the work, that is not interesting?” I asked.

“Look, we are in sales. This is a struggling economy, supply chain issues. It’s easy to not get excited.”

“You are not answering the question. Tell me about the work,” I insisted.

“We show up to an appointment, make a presentation and ask for the business.”

“That’s a good start,” I nodded. “Those are the prescribed duties. Now tell me about the decisions your salespeople have to make when they are on these appointments.”

“I don’t understand,” Brent furrowed his brow.

“I think that’s the disconnect. You are right. Showing up and making a presentation is not very interesting. Of course, that is what you have trained them to do, but that is not the work of a salesperson.”

Passion For the Work

“Okay, my goal. Our sales targets are my goal. But you assume they are doing their best. What if they aren’t doing their best?” Brent protested. “Then, shouldn’t I be disappointed?”

“Brent, your contract with each team member is that they come to work each day, and do their best. Full application of their capability, completing the tasks they have been assigned by you. Can you tell if someone is violating that contract?” I asked.

“Of course, I have been a manager here for seven years. I can tell immediately if someone is not doing their best,” Brent replied.

“And what reasons would there be for someone to not do their best?”

“Well, it could be a number of things. They might not feel well, they might be sick. They could be fighting with their spouse. They could have a disagreement with a team member. They could be having difficulty because they don’t know how to do something. They might not be doing their best because they are not interested in the work.”

“Yes, and as their Manager, should you be aware of each and every one of those things? Frankly, most of those are easy things to know, but what about that last reason?”

“You mean, they might not be doing their best because they are not interested in the work?”

Who Can Change the Things That Matter?

“Our goal, their goal? What’s the difference?” Brent retorted.

“The difference is your relationship with the team, their relationship with you and your understanding of who is accountable,” I replied. “When they don’t meet your goal and you come down on them, how do you think they feel? What is their attitude toward you?”

“They know I am disappointed in them.”

“No, they get pissed at you.”

“Pissed at me?” Brent sat back. “I am not the one who is supposed to be selling, they are.”

“You are right. As the leader, I expect you to devote full attention to the management of this sales team. Which is why they are pissed at you.”

“I still don’t get it. Why are they upset with me?”

“Assuming they are doing their best, and you are still falling short of your goal, who is the only one who can hire more salespeople? Who is the only one who can coordinate different marketing? Who is the only one who change the assignment of leads? Who is the only one who can change their collateral literature? Who is the only one who can set selling margins?”

Brent was silent, then finally spoke, “That would be me.”

Whose Goal Is It?

“I know how it is affecting you,” I said. “How is it affecting the team?”

“Well, when they don’t meet the goal,” Brent explained, “I sit down with them, mostly one at a time and talk to them about doubling down their effort. They are just going to have to work harder. They can tell I am disappointed in them, so I am sure it makes them feel bad.”

“Why are you disappointed in them? Are they doing their best?” I asked.

“Yes,” Brent slowly nodded. “They are doing their best, but they are missing the goal.”

“Whose goal?”

“Well, the team goal. I am just trying to help them meet the team goal.”

“What do you think the team goal is?”

“Well, we measure it in revenue, average revenue per sale, and number of new clients. The goal this month, it is supposed to be our best month of the year, is 47 new clients.”

“The goal is 47 new clients? That’s good, but I want you to understand that is not the team’s goal.”