Whom Do You Work For…Whom Are You Accountable To?

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A few months back two cousins went to war over how their long-time successful family business should be run. Arthur T. Demoulas was removed as CEO of Market Basket, a highly successful 71-store grocery store chain by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas. It sounds confusing already. You see, Arthur S’s side of the family owned 50.5% of the company and decided they wanted to divert as much of the financial resources of the stores to coffers of 9 family members.

Arthur T. invested $1000 per semester in employees as tuition reimbursement. He funded the employee profit-sharing plan with an additional $46 million to cover losses suffered in 2008. Cashiers were paid at a starting wage of $12/hr. compared to the state minimum wage of $8/hr. Arthur T. knew the names of his employees and the names of their family members. Arthur T. worked for his people.

When Arthur T. was removed the people walked out, the employees protested and the employees impeded the flow of food into the stores. Shelves went empty, customers stopped patronizing the stores and significant losses occurred. Over 20,000 employees protested and thousands of customers boycotted Market Basket. They wanted Arthur T. back. Just this past week Arthur T. finalized a deal to buy the portion of the company that he didn’t control. Arthur T. is on his way back!

So, why did all those people walk out and protest? It comes down to two questions:
Whom did they work for?
Whom are they accountable to?

The answer to both questions is the same, Arthur T. Demoulas. The people felt a relationship with Arthur T., they felt that he valued them and they always worked for him not Market Basket. Whom do you work for? Whom do the people who report to you work for? Do they work for a paycheck or is there a deeper connection?

When someone works for a check then they are just going to leave when someone offers them a bigger check. When they work for a person because they feel valued, appreciated and in a position to make a difference, it becomes a much different situation. People stay where they are valued. People stay where they feel they can make a difference. And, people stay where they believe they are part of something bigger than themselves. People stay when you invest in them, discover their potential and help them grow to reach that potential.

Accountability is keeping your commitments to people. The employees of Market Basket believed that Arthur T. was accountable to them so they responded by being accountable to him. They supported him, went out on strike for him and worked to see that he would return as CEO. Would the employees of your company do that for you or for the CEO of your organization?

I see companies all the time that focus on the numbers and make money. Then, there are the companies that focus on people and create a place where people want to be accountable. When you focus on your people, your people will be committed to making a difference and they will go above and beyond in the service they deliver to your organization. What you are doing when you focus on people is creating a place where employees are engaged, feel valued and accountability is inspired. Companies whose employees are engaged outperform companies whose employees are not engaged. When you focus on people first, greater profits naturally follow.

Do you know whom you work for? Do the people around you know? Do you know whom you are accountable to?

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