Secret Marketer: If we don’t ensure personal accountability, an entire team can fail

It is the time of the year when many businesses look at their financial performance over the past 12 months and decide whether to pay bonuses.

In other parts of a business, teams gets enthused about the new plans for the year ahead – why they are going to be different to last year, and why everyone in the company should get excited. The reality is that what happens in the financial performance discussions is much more likely to affect people’s mood than what happens down the corridor.

This week, I was presenting our 2015/16 marketing plan to one of the lead sales directors and he made a very interesting comment.

He said that it is all very well marketing doing a jolly good job, meeting all its key performance indicators, and patting itself on the back, but if the business has failed to meet its targets, then we all fail.

I mused on this for a few seconds, as until now I have resisted the notion of marketing taking a sales quota. Although we are responsible for building the brand reputation, establishing the credibility for our products and services, and for getting customers in front of our sales people – actually getting the customer to put their hand in their pocket falls to someone else in the supply chain. We are intrinsic members of the team, and possibly the most important, as without us, there would be no one to sell to anyway.

The sales director then used the analogy of a goalkeeper in a football team. If the goalkeeper is brilliant and goes through the game without letting in a goal but the team draw the game 0-0, is that a success? The point he was making was that even though one department or individual has performed flawlessly, do they not have an obligation to share the burden of those parts of the business that are struggling?

As a team player, I get that but at the same time I believe in personal accountability and responsibility. If the striker is no good, then you get a new striker – you don’t put your goalie up front attempting to stick the ball in the opposition’s net as well.

I think it is a dilemma. Marketers are expected to be commercial and senior leaders, however they are not the only people in the boardroom. We should support (pass the ball), we should call out those who underperform (coach), but should we spend the game back in our box, or rush up field at every opportunity? I am not sure.

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  • Morgan Jones 16 Apr 2015 at 8:40 am

    Maybe this is really a question of leadership. If individuals don’t contribute to the team performance someone inevitably picks up the slack whether they want to or not. Resentment spreads and the individual becomes a pariah and what good is having a team member that no one wants to work with or respects? It’s the leader’s responsibility to identify and address deficiencies/disharmony within their team. A poor leader ignores these issues and thus the failure becomes theirs, not necessarily the team they manage. After all this is generally how it works in politics e.g. Department fails to provide service/accountability = MP loses job.

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