My salespeople are not selling as much as I expect them to. My administrative people are always coming in late. My production people never seem to get things out on time. My truck drivers leave their trucks a mess. My service people don’t treat our customers as they should. Do these sound familiar? They do to me. I hear statements like these from owners and managers of way too many businesses and they are typically preceded by words like “I just don’t understand why, but…”.
My response is a simple question; Have these employees been told how much you expect them to sell, that coming in late is not acceptable, how important it is that they ship and deliver on time, that you expect the trucks to be cleaned out each day, and how customers must be treated? Too often we want to believe that all we need to do is hire an employee, put him or her into a position in our company, and watch as they dig right in and do the job just as we expect. Unfortunately many of us fail to tell them what we expect.
I worked with two companies that provide similar products. Both have many trucks that are critical to their business operations and are very visible to their customers. Company One’s trucks are always dirty. They look like they have not been washed since the day they left the factory. The cabs of their trucks resemble a trash bin behind a McDonald’s restaurant. In contrast, the trucks from Company Two always show up to the customer’s location looking like they are brand new. They are well cared for, have no dents, and are always clean inside. Is it just a coincidence that Company Two also outperforms Company One? Could it be simply the condition of the trucks that makes the difference? No, it isn’t the trucks themselves but the trucks are an indication of a major difference between the two companies.
Company Two’s culture is based on setting expectations for the performance of the company and its employees. Expectations are set for everything from sales to quality to customer response to profits to how employees are expected to treat the company’s equipment. Setting high expectations and then holding people accountable for achieving those expectations is the norm at Company Two. Company One’s culture is totally opposite and their trucks and their performance reflect that.
For companies to excel their employees must perform to expectations. But to do that requires that they know and understand what is expected of them. It’s management’s job to not only set expectations but to also communicate those expectations. Only then can the employees be held accountable for meeting them.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? Set expectations, hold employees accountable, then sit back and get results. It is easy if accountability is a basic component of your company’s culture. If it’s not, adding accountability to your culture is not very easy at all. Your truck driver never had to worry about how his truck looked. Your production people never got in trouble for missing a due date. Your sales person was never held to a quota. Now all of a sudden the rules are changing. Being told what performance and behavior is expected and being held accountable for that performance is a major shift from the old culture.
Like any other culture change, changing to an expectation and accountability based culture requires total management commitment, a good deal of time and effort, and a lot of grief. Few investments that you make in your company will pay off as well as this one will.
Joel Strom, Managing Director of the Strategy and Value Creation Consulting practice at CKS Advisors. Joel helps to accelerate business growth, maximize enterprise value and increase ownership wealth. Joel can be reached at 480-745-3088 or by email at email@example.com.