I honestly believe that no one comes to work looking to do a bad job. Everyone wants to be successful, everyone wants to go home at the end of the day feeling like they achieved something and that they didn’t waste their time.
Just picking up a paycheck having spent 8 unproductive hours at work is soul destroying.
However, it usually the individual that is blamed for their failure to be successful; they are given poor ratings and sometime are replaced.
In terms of taking action, replacing them is the easy option, helping them to be successful is often more difficult and requires our investment.
As leaders we need to ask our selves what is it that is stopping someone from being successful.
There are many potential reasons:
- Lack of ability
- Lack of clarity of what needs to be done
- Working on the wrong solution
- Lack of understanding of what’s needed to be successful
- Lack of understanding why the job is important
- Lack of training
- Lack of the tools to do the job
- External barrier hindering success
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of belief that they can do the job
Once we have identified the reason for failure then we need to fix it.
It’s our job as Leaders to fix it, or to ensure that its gets fixed, its not the individuals job to fix it.
I firmly believe that as a Leader I am accountable for their failure and they are accountable for their success.
In my experience, in the majority of the cases where people are failing, more often than not it’s because they don’t know what’s required, they are focusing on the wrong solution or they don’t have the tools do the job.
It’s not because people just can’t be bothered to do a good job.
One challenge we face is that people don’t often want to discuss, or don’t feel comfortable discussing failure, or admitting that they didn’t understand the requirements.
As Leaders we need to create an environment where failure is not just punished, but is first looked to be understood and then resolved. If people feel that there is a blame culture then they will not come forward with issues as they feel that they will be blamed.
The approach I try to, is to create an environment where people trust that I am here to help them not just to punish them.
To make them feel that I feel accountable for their failure and that their success is my main goal.
At a logistics company where I worked, we had poor cost management, with frequent cost overruns, poor forecasting and a general lack of accountability.
Consequently, the cost center managers were blamed for this lack of control.
When I took over I implemented regular financial reviews with the cost center managers to allow us to go through the current status, for us to be able to get a better understanding of what was going on and what, if any, the issues were.
On doing this it became very clear to me that people didn’t have the information they needed to manage their cost centers.
All reports were at a 50,000 feet level and it was impossible to see what was going on at a detailed level.
To address this we looked to have the reporting created at a transactional level. This allowed people to clearly see for each transaction what the item was, what were the costs and who had created it.
During the monthly financial reviews we were now able to see that there were a lot of miss bookings, people posting on the wrong cost center, items were purchased where there were some questions still open.
It was also clear that there was a lot of misunderstanding on how cost management worked: the processes; their importance; and the tools that were used.
To remedy this Controlling ran financial training at all management levels so that we could improve understanding not just of the processes but of the importance of the processes.
With this improved understanding of Cost Management and better visibility into their costs via detailed reports, the team was able to clean up their cost centers; reduce miss bookings; improve the purchase approval system to ensure only items needed were purchased; and hold cost management meetings with their team.
Within a 3-4 month period the cost situation was completely turned around.
Cost overrun were not only reduced, but where they happened we had a clear understanding of what had caused them and were able to put mitigation actions in place.
Cost Forecasting significantly improved, both in terms of accuracy and understanding, which increased confidence and trust with the Controlling department and also improved our planning capability.
As for accountability, where we had none before people took full ownership of their cost centers, not only that, but they held their own team accountable by driving understanding at all level.
This is a classic example of people failing to do their job because they didn’t have the right training, the right tools or the right understanding of importance of the job.
Once these issues were addressed people took full accountability and turned a failing situation situation into a successful one.
by Gordon Tredgold