Tag Archives: accountability

But, He Was Always a Team Player

“Are you having fun with all this?” I asked, smiling behind a very serious intent.

“Hell, no,” Gerald replied. “I’m ready to just ditch the guy. But he has eight years of good performance in his file, easy enough to get along with, always shows up as a team player. I don’t know how I would document his deficiencies to fire him. I can’t even get his production reports.”

“Let’s think about the problem, again. Let’s go over the facts. You have an eight year employee, always a team player, positive attitude that you promoted to Manager.”

“Yes,” Gerald agreed.

“Before you promoted him, did he ever display behavior that demonstrated competence as a Manager?”

Gerald’s face turned puzzled. “What does that mean? He was one of our best supervisors. He could make things happen in a heart beat. My top pick if we ever got in a jam. He could handle two walkie-talkies, a cell phone and drive a fork-lift at the same time.” Gerald stopped. “Well, not that we allow people to talk on the phone and drive fork-lifts, but you know what I mean.”

“So, in a pinch, when things get hectic, he’s your guy?” I confirmed.

“What is different about being a Manager?”

The Trouble with Benchmarks

“When did it start?” I asked. Gerald stopped to think. A long time employee, recently promoted to Manager, had gone zombie, mentally absent in the role.

“The timing is a little tough. When we promoted him to Manager, we knew there would be a learning curve, so we gave him a little space and the benefit of the doubt. But after four months, my patience is wearing thin.”

“Why have you let it go so long?” I asked.

“Well, we figured it would take a quarter to get up to speed, so we set some benchmarks that he needed to hit by the end of six months. I don’t know if we can wait until then.”

“So, this is management by results?” I pondered.

“Yeah, that’s the way we normally do things. But he’s not even close, and when we do try to pin him down, there is always some excuse about something not being in his control, and that we should wait for the six months we agreed to measure the benchmark.”

“How are you liking your approach?”

Ever Since the Promotion

“I am not sure where the problem is,” Gerald said. “He has been with the company for eight years, so he knows the ropes, how things are done, what the culture is. But ever since we promoted him four months ago, he has been different.”

“In what way,” I replied.

“Well, he seems dedicated enough, shows up early, stays late, though, during the day, I can’t seem to find him.”

“What about his performance. How effective do you think he is, based on what you expect from his position?”

“That’s the thing,” Gerald sighed. “I don’t think he is effective, but you can’t ever pin him down to find out what the problem is. His department never delivers on time, and when they finally do, it’s incomplete. They always have to scramble to finish the job.”

“What problems does that create?”

“Morale, for one. His team’s enthusiasm is pretty low. They complain about having to do the same job twice, or get halfway through something and have to stop, tear it down and start over on another ‘more important’ project.”

“And?”

“And, it’s having an impact on customers. Some of the phone calls are getting all the way up to me. When they get to me, something is wrong.”

“So, what do you think is happening?”

Nailing Jello

Gerald was getting impatient, up and down from his chair, pacing the floor. “But that’s the way we work. Management by Objectives.”

“I can see that,” I responded, nodding. “You gave him six months to hit his objectives, but you can already see that his behavior, as a Manager, is not effective?”

“Well, yes. And even trying to pin him down on his objectives. He’s just slippery. We are trying to measure the benchmarks and we can’t get the information. He has a production report that is due every Friday, but I never get it on time. And then, when I do get it, there is something screwy with the numbers, like a formula is wrong, or the columns don’t foot with each other. So I ask him to fix it and it’s another week before I see him again. Meanwhile, another Friday report is due and late again.”

“So, he can’t succeed based on his effectiveness, but he can succeed based on his ability to manage the data that you don’t receive about his performance?”

Who Makes the Hiring Decision

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You talk about the Manager Once Removed (MOR) in the hiring process. Our company followed that advice, but now our Hiring Managers are stuck. It seems the MOR is now making the final pick without input from the Hiring Manager. The Hiring Manager is now using that as an excuse to blame a new team member, saying, “Well, I didn’t hire that person.”

Response:
To recap, the Manager Once Removed is the Hiring Manager’s manager.

Manager Once Removed (MOR)
————————–
Hiring Manager (HM)
————————–
Open Team Role

Each, the MOR and the HM have specific purpose and specific accountability in the process.

MOR Accountability
The accountability of the MOR is to improve the quality of the decision made by the HM. The MOR is ultimately accountable for the decision made by the HM. This does not mean the MOR makes the decision, but coaches the best decision from the HM.

The process starts early, when the HM states that a new team member needs to be added. It is the accountability of the MOR to question the need and ask the HM to put together a (business) case for the new hire. This decision may go back to the annual workforce plan that contemplated an increase in production volume, or it may be an emergency because a team member quit to go to a competitor.

With agreement that a new team member needs to be recruited, it is the accountability of the MOR to ensure that a proper role description has been created. The HM, desperate for a new team member, may attempt to shortcut the process and use a substitute for the role description. The MOR must insist that a proper role description be written or an existing role description be updated. Note, the MOR is insisting, AND the HM is doing most of the legwork.

With a proper role description, it is the accountability of the MOR to ensure a proper set of interview questions be written, in both quantity and quality. A proper role description will contain several key result areas (KRAs) and sufficient questions in each key area should be documented. Again, the MOR is insisting, AND the HM is doing most of the legwork.

A large part of the role of the MOR is in screening for the candidate pool. Unqualified candidates should be screened out, qualified candidates should be screened in. The end result should be a pool of qualified candidates. If the candidates in the pool are qualified for the role, the possibility for a mistake goes down.

In the end, it is the HM that must pick, with minimum veto authority for the final selection. The last thing I want to hear is, “I didn’t hire that person.”

Is it a Personality Conflict?

“You would think at their age, they would know better,” Phil complained.

“What makes you think that?” I asked.

“The sales manager calls a meeting with the marketing manager, and the marketing manager refuses to attend. I ask why? And, all I get is how the sales manager is pushy, always with opinions about the way sales runs and it’s not even his department.”

“So, what is the sales manager to do?” I prompted.

“It’s annual budget time, and I told the two of them to get together,” Phil continued. “I need sales and marketing to coordinate. What I get is a big, fat personality conflict.”

“What would you say, if I told you, I didn’t think you had a personality conflict,” I replied. “But, rather an accountability and authority issue?”

“What do you mean?” Phil looked skeptical.

“Do each of them have an accountability to publish an annual budget coordinated with the other?”

“Yes,” Phil nodded.

“Is coordination something you would like, or is it a requirement?”

“It’s something I would like, but I don’t want to be pushy. They should be able to figure it out,” Phil defended.

“And, if they don’t coordinate, then they miss the accountability?”

“Well, yes,” Phil looked puzzled.

“I don’t think you have a personality conflict, I think you have an accountability and authority issue.”

What is Your Intention?

It’s January, annual reflection time. What are your intentions for the year?

More important than the ideas of your intentions, how will you make them more effective as guideposts, milestones, motivation and internal encouragement?

What is the form of your intentions? Like New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten, intentions can easily fade.

  • Define your intentions in written form.
  • Read your intentions out loud, in private.
  • Say your intentions out loud, in front of a group of people.
  • Give that group permission to hold you accountable.
  • Post your intention somewhere public, where you see it every day, where others see it every day.

You can start with a 3×5 card taped to your mirror.

Supernatural Powers

“Who is responsible for the team?” I asked again. “Who is responsible for the performance of the team, and all the things that affect performance?”

Melanie started looking around her office, as if someone was going to appear. One of her team just quit.

I continued. “If it’s not you, as the department manager, if it’s not your accountability, then who?”

Melanie’s eyes stopped skirting the room. There was no hero that appeared. One last time, she floated her excuse, “But how am I responsible for one of my supervisors quitting?”

“That’s a very good question. How are you, as the manager, responsible for one of your supervisors quitting?”

“What, am I supposed to be clairvoyant?” Melanie snapped.

“That would be helpful,” I nodded. “But let’s say you don’t have supernatural powers. How could you, as the manager, know enough about your supervisors, to have predicted this departure?”

They Act Like Zombies

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Working with my team, trying to get them to solve a problem. But, I think my solution is better than anything they might come up with. And, I don’t have time to have a meeting, and besides, I don’t think my team wants to be creative. Sometimes they act like dolts. I can solve problems like this pretty easy. I have been in the business for six years. I have the experience. But when I tell them what to do, they’re like zombies from the Night of the Living Dead. Some of them walk around like they still don’t know what to do, even though I gave them the solution.

Response:
What are you training them to do? Are you training them to solve a problem as a team, or are you training them to act like “dolts.”

Whenever you solve a problem that the team should solve, you cripple the team from solving future problems. And, if your solution fails, who carries the burden?

As a manager, you have to figure out your purpose. If your purpose is simply to have a problem solved, then solve the problem. You don’t have to be a manager to solve the problem.

If your purpose is to train the team to solve a problem, then understand, you are now a manager, and everything you do sets a precedent for what comes after. Try this simple method of questions for the team.

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the cause of the problem?
  • What are the alternative solutions?
  • What is the best solution?
  • How will we test the solution to make sure it solves the problem?

Who Will Be Accountable?

We sat around the table discussing the new team member scheduled to show up for work the next morning.

“Who’s she going to report to?” came the question from Raphael.

“What do you mean report to?” I asked.

“Well, the new person has to report to someone,” Raphael replied.

“When, you say report, you mean report for duty? If that is the case, she can report to reception and reception can properly note the new team member has reported (for duty).”

“No, I mean the new person has to have a manager to report to,” Raphael pushed back.

“So, you think you are a manager so people can report to you?” I pressed.

“I suppose so, that’s what managers do, have people report to them.”

“Let me ask a question. Who around this table will be accountable for the output of this new team member?”

“Accountable, what’s accountability got to do with it?” Raphael looked slightly annoyed.

“If a ship runs aground at night, because the night watchman falls asleep, who do we fire?” I asked.

Raphael had to stop, briefly, “Well, we fire the captain.”

“Oh, really,” I smiled. “Why?”

“Why? The captain is accountable for whatever happens on the ship,” Raphael knew the answer, but did not like the direction of the conversation.

“So, if the manager is accountable for the output of the team, the question is not who this new team member will report to, but which manager around this table will be accountable for this new team member’s output.”