(Action Steps on How to Get Started)

By Bill Lee

In the hundreds of management seminars I’ve conducted over the course of my career, I have always told my audiences that if I ever were to write a book about management, the first chapter would be on the importance of being able to pinpoint responsibility. I believe it’s extremely important to the success of an organization for managers to be able to point their finger at each person in the organization and hold each employee accountable for measurable results.

To me, this is a basic rule that will enhance the odds that a business will achieve its long-term goals. Without measurable goals to keep the organization focused, there’s a strong tendency for the people who make up the organization to become more task-focused than goal-directed. Hard work is certainly important, but not unless the hard work leads to desired results.

No one should make the mistake of believing they are measured by how tired they are at the end of the day. Fatigue is not the objective; the objective is results achieved, regardless of how hard managers and employees work.

In many companies with whom I have consulted, employees are hesitant to take action before touching base with a supervisor. As a result, employees — many of whom are managers themselves — are not growing and developing in management confidence as they might if they knew how their jobs were being measured and had the authority to make the decisions necessary to achieve these measured goals.

Without clear-cut accountability, employees are not at all sure what they have to do to get ahead in the organization. When this is the case, the result is too much pressure on the owners or on top management, since those at the top are the only ones who do know what’s expected of them in measurable terms. Too often, it’s only top management that suffers when the company falls short of established business goals.

All employees need to know how they are measured to achieve an optimal level of effectiveness. In the absence of this knowledge, it is difficult for employees to know what they have to do to gain management’s favorable attention.

On consulting assignments, I often ask managers and other key employees, “How is your job measured?”

In response, the person might ask, “How do you mean, exactly?”

“Well, another way of phrasing the question might be to ask, what do you have to do to get feathers in your cap? You know, what would you have to do to get a pat on the back from your boss?”

An all-too-common answer to this question is, “The managers at this company don’t hand out feathers.”

Other times I hear, “When the boss is not yelling at me, I know that I’m doing okay.”

In the Position Specifications we prepare (see Chapter 4 of my new book, 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot - www.BillLeeOnLine.com) when my company sells a recruiting assignment, we always include how the job will be measured. Most candidates would think it’s unreasonable to accept a position unless they understood in very specific and measurable terms what they have to do to be successful.

CEOs or general managers might be measured on their ability to achieve a specified pretax profit margin, return on assets, return on stockholders’ equity, or compounded growth objective.

Credit managers might be measured on their ability to achieve an agreed-to number of average collection days and hold bad expense to a specified percentage of sales.

Buyers might be measured on how well they do at turning inventory, minimizing back orders, or on the gross margin their product group achieves.

Salespeople might be measured on how well their actual sales compare to their sales budget, the dollars of new business they are able to attract to the company, and their overall gross profit margin.

A manufacturing supervisor might be measured on how many units are produced over a specified timeframe, perhaps how well the organization performs against quality standards, or how well the manufacturing unit performs against cost guidelines.

A factory worker might be measured by personal output, safety, quality, attendance record, and so on.

Delivery drivers might be measured by how many stops they make in a day, their safety record, the accuracy of their work, the number of compliments and complaints they receive, etc.

An expression we consultants and trainers like to use with our clients is, “Your raise becomes effective when you do.” In other words, if you want to get a raise, you have to meet or exceed your measurable goals.

Action Step: Beside the names of each of your employees, jot down what you want each of them to do more of and what you want each of them to do less of. This will give you a good start at identifying measurable accountability for each of your people.

Action Step: Make a list of each job function in your organization and list the criteria you will use to measure the performance of each of the job holders.

Action Step: Make sure that each person on your business team is given the authority to make the decisions necessary to succeed. A bad decision is not indicative of a bad manager; managers learn by trying new techniques and feeling the freedom to make mistakes as long as they learn from them.

For more information on Bill Lee's new book, 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot, go to www.BillLeeOnLine.com.