A Test for Accountability . . .

not my fault

Those with a mindset of accountability make things happen and get results.  Those without accountability make excuses and have ample reasons for their lack of results!

Success in life, success in business and success most everywhere seems to accompany the individual who takes accountability, who marches ahead, even if the plan is only half-baked at the time, who makes the commitment to get it done, no matter what.

Heroes have always had “the accountability mindset”.  Remember the scene in Indiana indiana-jones-quotesJones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy is asked about his plan for rescuing the Ark? His reply, “What plan? I’m making it up as I go!” Determination and the mindset of accountability often win out over even the best laid plans carried out timidly.

RowanAndGarciaPerhaps the best known classic example of accountability and make it happen comes from the story of Captain Andrew Rowan who was asked by US President William McKinley to get a message to the Cuban freedom fighter, Calixto Garcia, somewhere in the mountains of Cuba, surrounded by Spanish forces. Rowan had less than a day to prepare and did not even know the whereabouts of Colonel Garcia and his rebels.

The actions (and accountability) of Captain Rowan so impressed American writer, Elbert Hubbard that he wrote a small pamphlet, titled A Message to Garcia, which was immediately picked up by business leaders as a much-needed message of accountability.  Since its publication in 1899 it went on to sell over 40 million copies, many bought by business leaders and handed out to all management and employees.  See my earlier blog on the subject of accountability.

A Test for Accountability

“Hey, I did my job! It’s not my fault the results were poor.  I did what I am paid for!”

What if all your managers and employees were high up on the Accountability scale?  What if they all had a “whatever it takes” mindset?  Imagine the level of customer service your organization would provide! World Class!  But how to determine if a candidate for employment (at any level in the company) is highly accountable?

So, suppose you are a grocery store needing to hire staff for stocking, check-out, and all the other important customer services functions.  How, with just an interview, can you find those individuals, old or young, male or female, highly educated or not, with an accountability mindset?

Here’s an interview technique that works every time to separate those who are truly accountable for excellent customer service from those who will “just do their job”, but nothing more.

abandoned-shopping-cartAfter the customary speech on the importance of customer service at ABC company, the job candidate is given the following task. “There are about a dozen shopping carts outside the store, some several blocks away, obviously taken by shoppers to unload their purchases.  I want you to go round them up and bring them back to the store.”  A simple task to test a candidates capability, but there is a twist.  Several of the shopping carts have greasy handles and others have various bits of trash inside them.  One even has mud all over the wheels while another has a lopsided wheel. Off the eager candidate goes.

What do you suppose is the result of this little exercise?  Out of 100 candidates, less than 10% bring back the shopping carts clean, taking the extra effort to find a rag and wipe off the greasy handles, clean off the mud, pick out the trash and send the one with the lopsided wheel to maintenance, making the carts perfect for the next customer.s

Hire those people!

They have a mindset of accountability.  They understand that customer satisfaction is their job! The others may be better looking, have impressive grades and more cultured speech, but they have proven that “they don’t get it” when it comes to customer service and accountability!

(Variations of this little hiring exercise can be carried out at almost any type of organisation with a little ingenuity on the part of those responsible for hiring!)

What’s your excuse for poor customer service?  Good hiring trumps good training any day of the week.

(PS: How many of you hate shopping carts with damaged wheels?  They are frustrating at the very least. And what does it tell you about the commitment to customer service of that company?  Don’t stand for it.  Complain to the manager.  Shoppers can also take the accountability to help management understand what customer service really is!)

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
This entry was posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, Self-improvement, strategy execution, the business of business and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Test for Accountability . . .

  1. Frank Tempesta says:

    Reminds me that I hate every luggage cart at Heathrow, all of which have 4 wheels that swivel, rather than just the two in front. It makes negotiating a turn nearly impossible.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Love the shopping cart test.


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