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Ken Keller: Why your business could use an AARP team

Brain Food for Business People

Posted: May 18, 2010 2:31 p.m.
Updated: May 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.
This column is not about the American Association of Retired Persons, it is about alignment, accountability, results and performance.

Your team might be eligible for AARP membership, but joining is an expense. On the other hand, turning your employees into an AARP team will make your company money.

Is it worth the effort? If you want growth it is. If you want increased revenue, reduced costs, more productive employees, stronger cash flow and improved profits, it is.

The first step is to get everyone in alignment. Most owners believe this is already the case. It isn't.

Observational research suggests most owners have set a goal of higher revenue this year. That translates to the sales department having a goal to sell more. But what about the credit department? Did anyone tell them about what the sales department was charged with doing? No.

Most owners have established motivational rewards for those in sales to sell more. But at the same time, those owners likely also told the credit people to tighten things up because they didn't want to be left owing money from "deadbeats."

This is an arranged conflict, establishing a lack of alignment. You can bet the people in sales and credit will do battle daily. These are two departments not in alignment because the goals of the owner are not in alignment.

Alignment starts at the top with the owner being clear about what he or she wants. Successful companies are in alignment from the top to the bottom, and across every department and position so there is not only a lack of conflict, there is a harmony of effort.

The second step is the elimination of lack of accountability. That means people know what they are responsible for getting done in a specific period of time. If they do not do what they are charged with doing, there are consequences, up to and including termination.

If accountability is used as a throwaway word and not a management tool, it becomes worthless. When people are not held accountable, it is akin to rust taking hold on the undercarriage of a car or truck - sooner or later it affects the entire vehicle. The vehicle not only looks bad, it doesn't run well.

If one person is excused from being held accountable, everyone else in the company will soon know, impacting morale. A double standard does nothing but hurt an organization.

Accountability starts and ends with the owner. Either hold everyone accountable or hold no one accountable.

The third step is results. Far too many job descriptions list tasks to be completed and not results to be achieved. Aren't individuals hired and being paid to accomplish things?

Look at the individuals working on the payroll and ask yourself, "what result is this person supposed to be achieving?"

People aren't hired to do "stuff," yet far too many of them do just that. All day long, week after week and month after month.

When it comes time for a performance evaluation, employees expect a raise for keeping busy but not effective.

Within a company, there is often no hierarchy of results. No one has taken the time to explain how the sought-after results of each person fit into the results of the department, then to the company as a whole.

Broken down person by person, it becomes clear what people have to do, by when and in what order.

It also becomes clear to identify which people aren't doing what they are supposed to be doing, so corrective coaching can take place.

If your company is underperforming, results are likely never discussed in conjunction with goals. That may because goals are never set, but even if they are, often results are not referred to again, never reviewed and measured and corrective action does not take place. The "report card" is never given to those who need it.

Often, people are told what results to achieve, but cannot accomplish the assignment for a variety of reasons. These reasons include not having the tools, the motivation or the understanding of the steps or the process.

Many times those giving the orders assume that those getting the orders understand "what" but not the "why" or even the "how" to achieve the desired results.

The end result of all of this is performance. When a team performs, it is because the members are in alignment, with a system of accountability and focused on results.

Performance means more money for the owner. Performance means more satisfied clients.

Performance means a better functioning organization. Tell me again why you wouldn't want to have an AARP team working in your company?

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Brain Food for Business People" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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