Accountable Mexican Organizations and Teams: Mission Impossible?
STORY INLINE POST
Let me tell you a story:
Pepito's mom asks him to go to a mom-and-pop store to get some milk. He follows through and goes for it. Pepito comes back soon without any milk and then goes out to play soccer, when his mom asks him: “What about the milk?”
Pepito answers: “Yes, I went to Sarita's store, but it was closed,” to which his mom answers: "I didn't tell you to go to Sarita's store, I asked you to go and get some milk."
Pepito did the right thing because in his mind they had always bought the milk at Sarita's store. He has no control over Sarita opening or closing her store and he had a very clear explanation on why he failed to achieve the outcome that his mom expected. Nevertheless, his mom did not ask him to go to Sarita's store, but, rather, to go and get some milk.
How many times has that happened to you in your organization, when you ask for something specific from a certain employee?
Accountability: in Spanish, there is no exact word to translate this powerful word into English, but the most accurate explanation is: hacer que las cosas sucedan (make things happen).
The simple fact that there is no direct translation into Spanish says a lot about what occurs culturally in Mexico and other Latin American countries. If you wonder why I assert this, it is because when someone fails to get a t result in a company, we usually hear excuses like: "I did my part; I gave it to production; sales failed to do their part; that is how I have been taught; and I have always done it that way, etc." More or less, those are the explanations of why things were not done. This directly affects the operational efficiency and outcomes of all companies.
I often use this phrase at work: "Those who explain yield no results." One of my professor’s when I was doing my master’s wrote a book called, ESQUEZOFRENIA, una enfermedad de los mexicanos. He was not referring to schizophrenia as the disease itself, but, rather, to the "disease of offering explanations;" i.e., “The thing is my aunt fell …; it is because I got sick …; it is because I didn't understand you …; it is the government …; it's because …; what happened is that … .” Just explanations and more explanations. This reaffirms that this is one of the main reasons why companies fail to succeed: by always, always explaining why things did not occur.
In any organization, the business model, the product, the service, customer service, the financing level, and the talent available are important, but if you fail to make things happen, they will NOT happen by themselves.
It is of the greatest importance to empower and teach your team the culture of making things happen, so that your organization does not catch this disease or to avoid having a single decision-maker. Certainly, this is not the right way to lead a company to success.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to permeate in your organization this culture of making things happen; not just "doing for the sake of doing," but, rather, for everyone in the organization to be accountable for the outcomes of doing or not doing, why they do it and what they do it for.
Hence, your first obligation as a leader of an organization is to raise awareness among your team members by answering the following questions:
Why the hell am I doing this?
What is the rationale?
What is the result they expect from me?
If you get them to understand your reasons, it will be easier for them to make things happen and, at the same time, they will assume that they have to be more creative, break some rules and improve procedures as well as make decisions and not sit and wait for someone else to take the shots.
Never accept them telling you that "Things did not happen because they have always worked this way” or justifying failure with some extrinsic reason. Always make them talk about the outcome and being accountable for what they did to make it happen or not.
A common example of the reflection of this lack of culture of making things happen is during in-house or external training courses. Commonly, we come up with good ideas and, normally, almost all of us write them down in a notebook, but when we go back to the office and resume business as usual, we forget what we jotted down. The ideas remain as good ideas in a notebook and arenever tried out.
Furthermore, it was a complete waste of time. In general, we neither produce change nor try ideas. So every time you go to a course or send a team member, your only obligation the next day is to do something with what you learned during the course, whether it is to test an idea or work toward a solution.
In organizational culture, we are used to explaining why things do NOT happen. For this reason, here are the three keys to make things happen and start changing the culture of your organization:
1. Culture: Make sure that the organizational culture of your company (mission, vision, values) as well as the objectives of each person are clear and understood by all. Specifically, what is the deliverable? Or what is the valuable end product to deliver? What is the organization trying to change or solve? Understand the raison d’être (reason of being) of each person and the company. This will help your organization focus on making things happen, rather than on fulfilling roles, keeping schedules or following written processes, because the latter, sticking to your schedule and working hard are useless without any outcomes.
2. Incentives: Recognize, applaud, and reward all those who DO make things happen, preferably not economically. You don't want people to do it just for an economic reward; they have to do it because they have to deliver a valuable end product, because they have a clear objective, because they know why their position exists and why this is important to the organization and the customer or client.
3. Leadership: Leaders are the first ones who must be accountable for making things happen. There is no worse disease than a leader who lacks the accountability chip. Leaders have to believe it, do it, convey it and execute it. They must be a role model for making things happen, that someone who makes them happen.
These are the three recommendations for you to adopt this culture of making things happen (accountability) in your organization. If you do, irrespective of your line of business, economic situation, customers/clients, devaluations or crises, your company is going to attain the expected and successful outcomes.