Who’s ‘They’? “They don’t understand what they are accountable for”. Those are the exact words that came out of the mouth of the Director of HR from a small [under 100] people manufacturing organization at a recent round table comprised of the executive team of that same organization.
That was the comment that sent the entire meeting into a tailspin on accountabilities, job descriptions, role profiles, competency of the ‘they’, organizational structure and generally how to fix the group of ‘they’. Discussions went on about re-wording role profiles, hiring a consultant to review and rewrite job descriptions, establish engagement surveys and engaging outside training so that the ‘they’ could finally understand accountabilities.
Does this sound familiar? Sadly, it’s not the first time words or actions such as these have come up and it won’t be the last.
Accountability starts at the top – NOT with the ‘they’. It starts with individuals whose role it is to actually lead and model the way within the organization – the executives of the organization. Individuals in positions of leadership are directly accountable for enabling the success of the people in their charge. It is the responsibility of the leaders at the top to provide the tools to enable the success of those in their charge. That is part of what defines you as a leader. The enabling starts with clear, concise communications and nothing less.
So, when the words ‘they don’t understand what they are accountable for’ are uttered, the immediate refrain could have been: have you been clear and concise on what defines success – success for the individual, success in the role, success of the team, success of the organization? The next question could have been: have you painted the picture for each individual as to how their work fits to the success of the team, the project, and ultimately the organization?
This is the role of leaders: to Paint that picture. Create the process flow so everyone knows how their works fits with everyone else in the team and the organization. This engages people. This builds relationships. This defines team. This defines accountability and it starts with you at the top – the individuals that hold responsibility together to ensure everyone [As Stephen Covey says] begins with the end in mind.
What happened to building relationships? What happened to the one-on-one dialogue that takes place between people working in the same organization? HR, the unit managers, the unit leaders all hold both responsibility and accountability to ensuring everyone is moving towards that same end in mind. This is where clarity is established. This is where loyalty starts – this is where trust starts.
People want to go to work and make a difference. Whether it is as an individual contributor or a member of a team, we all want to be a part of enabling successful outcomes for the team – the organization. We want to be held accountable, but we need to understand what we are being held accountable for. And that takes clear and concise communications.
These are the moments that really define a group. I believe in leaders leading; I believe in accountability; I believe that it is the character and commitment of the people you surround yourself with as actually being more important than competency; I believe in knowing and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the people in our organizations. I don’t however, believe there is a ‘they’. I believe there is an us – a we, and most importantly I believe that as Simon Sinek says: “Together we are better”.
Albert Einstein’s quote says it all: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. And if you don’t understand it, can’t communicate it clearly, engage in one-on-one dialogue to ensure consistent engagement and focus on success…….how in the world can the ‘they’?
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Loretta Biscaro Smith is the founder of Genesis Executive Management Inc. A consulting firm that specializes in, Leadership Development, and Executive Coaching. firstname.lastname@example.org