"We" and Accountability Do Not Mix

Establishing the "who" when assigning a task is critical, but often missed

I am standing in a neighbor farmer's shop and overhear him talking to two of his guys about what needs to be done. For one of his tasks he says, "We need to get the discs changed on the dominator." He then continues to give a list of other items.

On the surface his request sounds pretty clear. I assume his farm hands know how to change the discs.

The problem lies in that there were two guys standing there. Who did the manager want to take on that project? Should one of them handle it? Should both of them? In our shop, both would not be the right answer, as we despise hand holding.

If the project doesn't get done who is accountable?

When setting a task, a critical step is establishing exactly "who" needs to be responsible for getting the task done. When a manager is not specific it leads to employees making their own judgment calls. I have found when that happens, what the manager wanted and what the employees thought he wanted is almost never the same.

Leaving the assumption to the employees on who is responsible is a bad game in which everyone loses. 

In our example, a simple "Steve I need you to change the discs and Chris I want you to change the oil in the tractors" would provide the clarity needed. Both guys know exactly who is responsible and the manager now has the ability to hold the employees more accountable.  

The "we" concept goes much further than just setting tasks to your employees. On our family farm it is key at our senior level to establish who is responsible for getting a project done. Establishing who is responsible and accountable is crucial to running a smooth operation.

It is typical at our Monday Manager's meeting for us to come up with new ideas for improvement. It is critical in those meetings to establish who will be responsible for heading each project. We are making those decisions right there in the meeting so everyone is clear on who is accountable for which items.

Keep a keen ear to listen for the "we" in conversations and immediately address any ambiguity.

Effective people management takes constant commitment to your people and to continued learning. Reaching out to get the support you need is a powerful step in the right direction. Have questions? Send me an email at [email protected].

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