March 18th, 2014
A New Competitive Advantage
If someone asks you what is your competitive advantage what do you say? You know you get this question often. I just received it the other day in fact. You probably rattle off items including quality, service, delivery time, or maybe even the fact that you don’t bow down to pricing pressures. While attending an industry meeting recently, I learned of a lesser-known advantage, yet one that is just as important.
“Accountability is your competitive advantage if you know what it is all about,” said Sam Silverstein, author of No More Excuses. Silverstein talks to groups regarding how to build accountable organizations. He frequently asks the question: “Do you feel like you’re babysitting employees and all you ever hear are excuses?”
Who doesn’t? He said thousands of leaders have identified two roadblocks standing in the way of their organization’s future success—a lack of personal accountability and a culture that fosters excuses.
“We have to create an environment that fosters accountability,” said Silverstein.
If you think responsibility and accountability are the same, think again. “Responsibilities are things. You are accountable to people,” he said.
Following are Silverstein’s list of five attributes of highly accountable organizations. Does your company possess these traits?
1. Do the right things consistently.
2. We need to be accountable to manage our space. We have to look at our organizations and ask: if I was starting again today what would I do differently? What if you only worked until noon but you had to stay until six? What could you do that you are not doing? So once you come up with that, what can you eliminate to work on those items?
3. Manage the process. While listening to Silverstein’s presentation he gave us a problem and the audience came up with 10 solutions. “Reward an employee for creativity,” he said. “They should get a bonus for that. Don’t employ someone who comes in at 1:45 p.m. when something is due at 2 p.m. and say “I couldn’t figure it out.”
4. We are accountable to establish the right expectations. “If they fail, it is the leader’s fault,” said Silverstein.
5. We are accountable to contribute to our relationships.
Silverstein gave an example of one small, yet highly successful bank and each person in the organization, from the tellers to upper management, knows what the company believes.
Do you know what you believe? It doesn’t have to be a litany of factors. One of the bank’s values is: work hard damnit!
“Accountability is the natural outflow of a culture,” said Silverstein. “The bank never used the word accountable but they were the most accountable I have ever seen.”
Why? They know what they believe and everyone in the organization knows. They do what’s right no matter what it costs and who it offends. They also fire quickly.
“It only takes one person to kill a company culture,” said Silverstein. He adds that even if you are a leader and don’t make excuses you can’t accept them from others.
Finally, he asked attendees to define their non-negotiable. What is your non-negotiable? Immediately, I thought of when I visited Deceuninck North America recently and president Filip Geeraert talked about the company’s commitment to no backorders—a non-negotiable and everyone knew it. How could you not? They had a team they called death to backorders. I am sure that employees on that team felt a great deal of accountability and were slow to make excuses.
As you can tell this presentation definitely got me thinking and hopefully it did the same for you. Post a comment here with your thoughts.