AKRON (Sept. 13, 2004) — The concept of accountability applies as much to the boss as it does to the employees.
If you doubt that statement, ask successful owners and managers of prosperous tire dealerships and service shops. Then ask their long-term employees.
The other day some colleagues were bringing me up to date on the whereabouts of some of our favorite technicians. To cut to the chase, several solid, steady-performing techs I've known for a long time had left positions that supposedly were “dream jobs.” I recalled how each had bragged about finally getting paid what they thought they were worth at these jobs.
Then something must have changed—something major—to drive these techs away. My buddies assured me that their pay hadn't been cut. In fact, they had good pay in addition to monetary incentives to improve their efficiency and reduce comebacks. But these techs reached the point where the pay and incentives no longer offset the job's stress and frustration.
Why? The aggravation of the boss' flighty, unpredictable behavior just wasn't worth it anymore.
I contacted these techs to verify the gory details. Their biggest gripes focused on the boss' lack of accountability—especially when it came to absenteeism. First, any boss who expects his crew to be punctual and productive had damn well better be on time and accounted for. Second, there's nothing wrong with leaving your place of business. But you're flirting with disaster if you don't empower a capable lieutenant to steer the ship while you're away.
For instance, the owner/manager at one service shop began disappearing more and more often. He left no phone number at which he could be reached and also shut off his mobile phone. Eventually the boss explained that his wife's business was suffering, and he felt obliged to pitch in and refine her retailing skills. When it came to her fledgling boutique, the tech told me, this woman just didn't take “no” for an answer.
At first, the techs at this shop muddled their way through selling the work once they had diagnosed the vehicles. The next hurdle was learning to order parts efficiently. But no matter how hard they tried to fill the gap left by the absentee owner, they found they were wasting as much as two hours per day on chores outside their job description and expertise.
To add insult to injury, the inattentive owner/manager began criticizing these chores when he was at the shop. He second-guessed their parts purchases and whined about the way they billed out labor. Simply put, they just weren't doing it his way, and he'd been trained to do these things the correct way.
“I finally realized that I wasn't going to stomach his criticism on issues I wasn't trained to handle and would never be trained to do. I got fed up with killin' myself so the owner could afford to babysit his wife's store,” the disgruntled tech explained.
Remarkably, another tech had a similar war story. The owner/manager he worked for never ever bothered to explain his absences and would not answer his cell phone. Sometimes, he said he was going for a hamburger. Other times he claimed to be getting a haircut. But most normal people can eat lunch and/or get a haircut in less than three hours!
Sometimes this boss would road test a car or take one to an emission center's test lane. He'd leave after lunch and return near quitting time. This absenteeism has gradually increased over the last 18 months or so, the tech explained. The crew discussed a variety of reasons, ranging from mild to wild, for the man's behavior. The prevailing theory: Success has finally gone to his head, and he doesn't feel accountable to anyone anymore.
More and more jobs were delayed because the work hadn't been sold or authorized. The boss was gone, doing heaven knows what. The final straw, the man confided, was when the boss began showing up hours late for team meetings he planned. Then he would disrupt the work day by rescheduling the meeting to suit his whimsical agenda.
Hiring and firing several potential service mangers at this shop hurt morale. But morale plummeted further when begging the boss to at least turn on his mobile phone fell on deaf ears.
Readers, this part of leading and motivating workers shouldn't be rocket science! No matter what you think, you're still accountable to the people who put bread on your table. Demonstrate accountability by appointing, grooming and empowering a capable second-in-command.