Friday, October 28, 2011

Ownership, Accountability & Discipline

Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of experiences that have brought the three words of this essay’s title to mind: Ownership, Accountability & Discipline. The events have included a national merchandising conference, our annual industry trade show, numerous customer meetings and two board meetings. While it has certainly been a busy few weeks, it has also been a very successful time that reminded me of the importance of these three concepts. It is my experience that successful professional moments are rarely accidental and unplanned. Rather they are the result of planning, hard work in preparation, focused execution, and the adherence to the following three principles:


In any specific situation, imagine an important meeting or a major presentation; it is vital that clear ownership is decided up front. Who “owns” the success of the meeting and who” owns” the executional steps required for success? Too often these decisions are unclear and at times muddled by committees or group-think. Clarity of “ownership” is vital to insure solid execution and ultimately the success of the project or event. In a recent situation during our annual industry trade show, this concept was reinforced anew. In our company, I clearly “owned” the trade show and was viewed by our CEO among others as the point person for all questions/concerns/updates regarding the entire event. As part of the overall 4 day experience, numerous elements of the trade show (i.e. the booth graphics vs. the opening night customer event vs. the customer meeting room) all were lead by others. At times I was tempted to get involved in the decision areas that others “owned”, but I knew that clouding decision “ownership” in this instance would ultimately undermine the success of the overall event.


It may seem obvious that if you “own” a decision or a part of a project, then you would automatically be accountable for its complete execution; unfortunately my experiences tell a different story. Too often individuals want the authority of “owning” a certain project or event but they fail to realize that this comes with a price. If you truly “own” a part of a project, then you are “accountable” for insuring its successful execution good or bad! The night before a recent customer meeting it became clear that we needed to revise the presentation significantly and that we needed to find a 24 hour Kinko’s for late night reprinting and rebinding. While it was the last thing I personally wanted to do, I went with our National Sales Director and found the all-night location, worked side by side to revise the deck and ultimately to collate and bind copies. I owned the customer call and I was accountable for its success.


Having the “discipline” to insure the complete execution of a project/event is required for ultimate success. Too often I encounter situations where the executional focus is very good for a majority of the project/event, but once success is in sight, too often discipline wanders. I recently had the pleasure to attend a conference that was being lead by two great young leaders in my organization. The conference had gone very well and we had come to the closing evening event. Though nothing dramatically went wrong, the executional focus of both young leaders wandered that evening and we had to do some impromptu contingency planning/execution late that night. We must remember that execution is not complete until all elements of the project/event are complete AND you have had a chance to “debrief” the experience looking for ways to improve execution in the future.

As I said above, I am proud of our execution over the past few weeks and I am confident that those successful moments will be drivers to our future success. Equally I am reminded that we need to refresh ourselves regularly with the concepts of “Ownership, Accountability & Discipline” in order to enhance our execution and thus increase our performance and success in the months and quarters to come.