I recently had a conversation with a young man who worked for a large transportation company. He had been working in the same position for nearly a full year and was visibly proud to describe what his responsibility was. “I have the most important job in the whole company”, he said with focus and poise. He stated that bore the sole responsibility of degreasing over 10,000 square feet of the shop room floor. In addition to that, he was also charged with resupplying all the shop towel dispensers and emptying all the shop towel bins. And lastly, he refilled all the hand cleaner dispensers for use by the shop technicians and heavy equipment mechanics. He then went on to explain that without his position, the mechanics would be forced to perform these duties them selves, taking precious time away from much needed repair work. This would then cause the need for more hurried work which would in turn lead to small repeated mistakes. Those mistakes, if compounded, could then lead to breakdown or catastrophic on-the-road accidents which would then lead to injuries to the driver and passengers.
Needless to say, I was impressed by the way the employee was able to follow the chain of action that stemmed from his ability to perform his job and perform it well. He seemed empowered with a conscious sense of duty and pride. He clearly understood how his job, minor as it may seem from outward appearances, was critical to business operations and public safety. He was not just responsible for his job duties, he was accountable for them. And this, as the saying goes, is where the rubber meets the road. Accountability.
In my opinion, accountability is not a skill that can be taught, but rather an inherent trait that must be nurtured. Leaders must be aware that their team will consider their job as important as they show them it is. Leaders who treat their team as entry-level drones will breed an environment of indifference. Imagine being told that the rest of your professional life would consist of stacking large rocks on top of one and other from morning till night without knowing why or to what end it was being done. Now imagine that the same work duty but now being explained that you were building an impenetrable dam that would someday save your children and your grandchildren.
Whether front-line team leaders or C-level executives, leaders have the responsibility for cultivating their team and nurturing positive professional personality traits like accountability. A big step towards this is by setting the example and thereby setting the bar. One can not raise the level of expectation without visibly hold oneself to the same standards.
If you are a leader at any level within your organization, take the time to find ways to show your team that the work they do is worth-while and has a long-term affect on the organization no matter what position they hold. But first of all, realize how vital to the organization your own position is and use that energy to breed a workforce of employees that feel their position is the most important job there is. Because quite frankly…it is!
– John Rico