Entering the store for coffee and a snack, a warm ‘hello’ springs from behind the counter while several clients form short lines at 3 registers. The busy store is clean and well organized. Such management does not happen by accident.
Accountability is a key component to running a C-Store well. Leading companies and managers use a mixture of high technology and artful leadership to make it happen. While approaches vary, good accountability always has a few key rules. As Randy Robinson, a 30 year veteran of C-Store and truck stop leadership states ‘The work day flows better when people know what to expect.’ These rules set expectations that makes for smooth days.
End results depend on upfront work
Implementing a system and having consistent behavior is essential. Changing behavior requires clear explanations, understanding, agreement and discipline. It takes time and participation from the staff to achieve.
Fairness must be established or hope is lost
The purpose of any accountability system is to attain best efforts for specific goals or practices. In order for staff to act differently, they must believe their actions can result is desired outcomes. Multi-location comparisons must address market size and production capacity or hope will be lost. Three pumps cannot produce the same capacity as twenty. Likewise, customer flow potential must be considered. A rural area may not be able to compete on total transactions, but may be able to manage costs and profits to achieve top performance and ROI. Ensuring that the staff can reasonably influence the attainment of a goal is essential for creating the hoping of attaining the goal.
Minimize firing staff through hiring and training
Teams do not all progress equally and consistently, that is the very reason accountability is needed. With good hiring and good execution the team will thrive using a fair approach that they helped to build and/or implement. Even great buy-in, there will be mistakes, loss of commitment and occasional bad behavior. Accountability means that management (and other team members) will address short comings. Acceptance of deviations allows bad behavior to become normal. To maintain commitment, the team must see that corrections when needed. Seasoned managers know that the first place to look when bad things happens is to themselves. It is essential to ensure the correct way is understood, the team is able to execute and willing to do so. Only after adequate instructions and warning does termination make for a fair resolution.
Teams must want to use systems
Most staff feels they have more work to do than time to do it. They expect a system to save them time and reduce errors. Just like the accountability practices systems work best when there is proper buy-in, training and resources to make it work well. While not everyone can be involved to build or buy systems, there must be adequate training, proper equipment, efficient work flow and fast responsiveness for a system to be useful.
Walk into new accountability not run
The goal is to influence the behavior of your teams in a way that improves performance. Long-term commitment is much easier to attain if the ones being held accountable agree with the rules and the want to succeed. It takes time to have the team understand the goals, agree that they are fair, implement any systems that are required and see that management will follow-through. It takes time to implement. Steady progress towards the goal allows for understanding and buy-in.
As the coffee and granola bar were purchased, the cashier, Shannon McAllister, was asked if the manager’s practices made a difference in how the days went. Without any hesitation she smiled brightly ‘Oh yeah, definitely!’ Most of us like working in a great environment with strong accountability in place.