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There Is No Immunity From Accountability…

March 1st, 2013

Idealistic and possible or just a pipe dream? I’ve never started off one of my blog entries with a question, but I started thinking about this statement while out on one of my training rides. I started thinking about some of the past companies I had worked with and some of my “peers” that were responsible for specific divisions or line offerings, who Quarter after Quarter, continued to report results that were not only below an original Budget, but below what they had previously made a commitment to achieve. Not at just a revenue level, but at every level of the P&L. Dare I say “promised” to deliver? Ultimately, what led to the continued support of these individuals was either their relationship with a key executive, or in other cases, a lack of motivation and performance by their Director to make the necessary change. Without an inherent drive for results and improved performance there emerged a tolerance for mediocrity, which ultimately, affected the overall performance of the company.

Don’t get me wrong, it would be a pretty challenging situation to have a company full of relentless Type-A, performance driven individuals. There does need to be a balance in the composition of the staff, but there are also key positions, that in the absence of delivering on key initiatives have much broader implications to the performance of the company.

Whenever I have made a hire that comes from my direct network it’s a direct reflection on not only my responsibility as part of the executive team, but also a reflection on my reputation should that person not work out. Unfortunately for that person, they’ll actually have an even higher level of accountability to perform as I don’t want to have to walk out a hire that I was responsible for. I know it will happen eventually, but I’d like to delay that situation as long as possible. Regardless of whether they are part of my network, or I’ve grown up with them, or ride with them, they need to deliver on the roles and responsibilities for the position that they are being hired into. Without their delivery, they risk impacting the results of the company. There’s obviously an inherent responsibility on my part to ensure their skills are a match for the position, they possess the appropriate motivation, and if there are any deficiencies discovered in certain areas, it’s my responsibility to develop a development plan.

Moving forward, what happens when a hire is made and you’ve realized that the either the skills have been misrepresented or they are simply lacking the proper motivation to deliver what is expected. Very simply, it’s time to make a change before more resources are squandered and you’ve potentially jeopardized timelines or the commitment you’ve made to others. The situation is seldom black & white and easily interpreted. Is it a smaller start-up, as I’m currently working, or a multi-divisional corporation, as I’ve experienced in the past.

In the case of the start-up, there is little room to hide. There are no firewalls. Your deficiencies will quickly be seen if you fail to deliver. Make no mistake about it. You better be taking an honest look in the mirror before committing to a start-up.

A larger company? There’s certainly plenty of room to hide and work under the radar. In fact, if you’re a “friend of” someone, you can usually exploit that situation to do only what is needed to get by and likely sustain a stellar level of mediocrity. The other damage done here is that the skills shortfall is recognized sooner by surrounding colleagues and usually results in a lack of peripheral support in accomplishing departmental goals, which then further erodes morale. More often than not it either isn’t addressed or can take years to play out before a new catalyst is present to make the necessary changes.

I can only hope that in the future that I would promote an environment that allows a colleague to speak openly with me if one of my hires or a recommended candidate was not performing. My responsibility is to delivering the results that I have promised and not to create a de facto subsidy for colleagues who don’t have the skills or motivation to find a job on their own. I want to hire motivated, resourceful and performance driven individuals. What about you? Are you promoting immunity from accountability?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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