Friday, March 7, 2014

Accountability: A Question of Leadership?

I work with many businesses and organizations on a regular basis. The marketing issues we discuss often extend into business management areas such as business processes, customer service, business management strategies and protocols, etc.  These areas affect how customers do business with your company every day so they have to be evaluated if a marketing strategy is going to be effective. The most common complaint or issue that organizational leaders seem to have is their frustration with the lack of accountability from their employees.

 Since the recent downturn on the economy in 2008, business seems to have gotten a little harder for every part of the supply management chain. Companies and organizations are more focused on core issues and have less time for strategic planning. This has had a significant impact on businesses and their ability to train staff, enhance organizational work flow or clearly define accountability and responsibility within the company. Also, businesses often don’t have access to a Human Resource specialist that can set parameters for accountability and responsibility within an organization.

 How does marketing responsibility venture into the rarified air of human resources one might ask?  It is a gray area for most small businesses that constantly undergoes change in an effort to respond to customer needs and marketplace demands. This coupled with staff turn overs and the need to “wear many hats” within a smaller organization means that the leader manages the company in a manner that  treats the employees with dignity and respect …in other words, he or she hope they do the job they are supposed to do.

Internal work processes reviews, client accounts, multi-level discussions, meetings, products reviews and more all teach employees what their responsibilities are from a task oriented point of view but they rarely help staff understand the larger picture that allows them to take responsibility for their action as it relates to clients. This is where accountability and responsibility can break down within an organization, causing serious customer service issues.

We have painted a picture of an over-worked organizational leader under siege who has relied on the accountability of his staff. Unfortunately the responsibility must rest with the leader in this breakdown. While he or she has provided task oriented information on internal work flow they have not provided clear role definition or parameters for external accountability. And in many circumstances they have not reinforced internal work flow accountability by defining consequences and reinforcing those positive outcomes with incentives.  

 A leader is responsible for setting common goals and objectives. This can be accomplished by first writing up job responsibilities and expectations clearly for each role. Then a leader must be prepared to set a clear vision for the company and its responsibility to its clients. Your staff must understand that they have an equal allegiance to both you and your clients. The next step is to constantly reinforce organizational goals, objectives and vision for the company along with their responsibility through meetings and recognition programs within the organization.

 The final step is creating the opportunity for feedback and the opportunities to create scenarios that allow employees to work outside their comfort zone and exercise that responsibility. Be prepared to reward success and use failure as a teaching moment.

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