Giving Your Employees Authority Will Make Them Accountable [Solve My Problem]

Gregg Curtis, Good Earth Garden CenterWhat is the best way to determine levels of accountability from your employees?
— Gregg Curtis, The Good Earth Garden Center

Advice from Ron Vanderhoff, Roger’s GardensRon Vanderhoff

One of the big issues in garden center accountability, I believe, is due to considerable job overlap in many of our business models. Who is accountable for maintaining the sales floor, helping shoppers or managing plant health? I suspect the answers to many of these questions are vague, at least if you ask your staff. As managers, we may think there is a clear answer, but I suspect the people on the other end of the conversation may feel differently, due to how we have set up accountabilities in our businesses and the often confusing messages we send as managers.

Most successful companies have clear job descriptions and thus accountabilities (sales teams, manufacturing teams, marketing teams, purchasing teams, etc.). There is little overlap. Even obvious responsibilities like reception, facility maintenance and so on are clearly defined and understood. But not so in many garden centers. As managers and owners, we may have set up a culture where everyone is accountable. It sounds good in a rah-rah meeting, but if everyone is accountable, no one is accountable.

Yes, everyone can and should participate in the performance and success of the company, but a general confusion and deterioration will ensue when “it’s everyone’s responsibility” is the prevailing message. In this sort of culture, heroes do not stand out and do not get acknowledged. Eventually, they leave, or worse yet, give up. Poor performers hide behind the hard work of others. Depending on the size of the business, buyers should buy, marketers market, stockers stock, merchandisers merchandise, maintainers maintain, sellers sell, cashiers cashier, loaders load, drivers deliver and so on.

One other issue with accountability is that owners, managers and leaders sometimes enforce accountability without also granting authority. Accountability without authority equals frustration. If an employee is accountable for a certain result, but has little or no authority to make adjustments in order to achieve those results, they are being set up for failure and frustration. That frustration will ultimately manifest itself, and usually not in a good way.

If you’re not willing to relinquish real authority, don’t enforce accountability. If the person can’t handle the authority or you don’t trust them, then don’t make them accountable. That’s not their problem, that’s your problem.

Advice from Erma Rhadigan, Ray Wiegand’s Nursery

Here are some things we do at Ray Wiegand’s Nursery to manage employee accountability:
• Each department at our store has a budget. The buyer of that department is supposed to stay within that budget.
• We use the $eason2Buy program from Steve Bailey. We also had John Kennedy, a motivational speaker and succession planner, come in this spring, and we are doing a lot of things he recommends and are seeing results.
• We have job descriptions for each department so employees know what is expected of them.
• We also have individual department goals. If a department hits their goal for the month, each person gets a $5 gift card to places like our store, Meijer or McDonald’s. By making it both a game and a goal, everybody tries to get a prize. The end result is teamwork and more profitability for our store. This month (July) we saw a 6 percent increase in sales because of it.

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