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  • Glenn Sharp

A Leadership Success Story: Why Leader Accountability Matters Most

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

There are leaders in business today who are achieving great success with their teams by returning to the basic principles of management and focusing their efforts developing their employees through a culture of accountability, Let’s take a look at one such success story:

The Issue:

I was asked to coach a GM of a manufacturing plant, a few years back, who was struggling with leading her direct reports as well as the hourly employees they managed. For fun, let’s call her Candice so I can protect the innocent. Candace was experiencing high turnover at all levels of her facility but was especially concerned with the turnover rate within her leadership team.

It seemed Candace and her team were disconnected from the plant floor employees. Most of the leadership team kept to themselves and only visited the plant floor when there was an immediate issue to be addressed or if they had to escort a client through the facility. 

This was causing serious issues within Candaces’ facility. Turnover rates were double those recorded just a few years earlier when she took over the plant. Morale was extremely low. Safety incidents spiked as a result of sloppy work and inability to follow procedures. Finally, several members of the leadership team put in their notice and left due to the increasing pressure and frustration the felt.

The Solution:

It starts at the top

In coaching Candace, the first order of business was to get her to realize that the “why” behind her issue was her. Success or failure of a team begins and ends with the leader. Candace needed to hold herself accountable first, work on her leadership team second, and then the rest of the employee base.

Candace took a long look in the mirror and realized she was the main cause of the issues at the plant. She did not mandate her leadership team spend any significant time down on the floor with their employees nor did she lead by example and spend time with the people who worked so hard for her each and every day. The employees correlated a visit from a member of the leadership team with a problem, so each time a member of the leadership team was spotted on the plant floor, they would cringe hoping the problem was not them. 

Additionally, the employees thought the leadership team viewed them more as a number than actual people who work their tails off. They felt disrespected and rumors began to fester into fact as gossip and inuendo were left unchecked due to the lack of a leadership presence on the plant floor.

Get to know your people

After a couple of coaching sessions, Candace began to spend time down on the plant floor. She asked employees about their weekend and inquired about family, hobbies and sports. She immediately began to see a change in many of the plant floor employees as some of them would approach her before she even got to their work area. 

Set clear expectations and follow Up

After seeing positive results, Candace held a meeting with her leadership team and explained the “why” behind her new approach. She asked each of them to hold themselves accountable as she did and join her in spending more time on the plant floor. Candace even designed a competition for her and her leadership team around who could collect the wildest story about an employee’s weekend. Each Friday, the team met to compare notes and laugh at all the interesting characters they met.

The plant floor employees began to respond to the members of the leadership team the same way they responded to Candace. They began to ask unsolicited questions about their boss’ weekend and even began to ask advice about issues on the floor. The members of the leadership team were so inspired they started attending morning start-up meetings with the line supervisors and their employees on the floor and even took a topic each morning to teach and provide guidance.

The Results:  

  • Safety incidents began to plummet due to the increased information and focus; employee morale began to spike due to the clear sense that there was a healthy respect both for leadership and plant floor employees. 

  • Employee lateness sharply declined due to a desire to want to come to work and people began to feel a real pride in the plant that caused people to take ownership in their work. 

  • Consequently, turnover rates tumbled, and more time was spent by line supervisors developing existing employees than searching, interviewing, hiring and training new hires. 

All because a leader looked in the mirror and realized she had to set the tone and make changes in herself first in order to affect real and lasting change. Candace held herself accountable first, then led by example and then finally held her leadership team accountable for the issues they were experiencing. Subsequently, Candace and her team created a new culture of healthy accountability that drove and continues to drive the plant’s success to this day.

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