Several of my clients have complained over the years about how tricky it is to hold their direct reports accountable. Impatient CEOs try to fix perceived problems or lack of information by going direct to employees reporting to others. We call these actions end-runs and they have the potential to derail your company.
When you communicate to the people reporting to your direct reports, those people will prioritize your directions over their superiors’. Worse, they may think that there is something going on with their direct boss, that caused you to go over their heads. End-runs weaken your direct reports and cause confusion around priorities.
Letting go of the vine
“Letting go of the vine” means that you communicate your expectations to function owners, whose job will then be to deliver those expectations by working with their respective teams. You hold the function owners accountable and they hold everyone below them accountable in turn. It is part of the LMA (lead, manage, drive accountability) responsibility of each function owner to get the job done and drive accountability and replace those people over time if they don’t GWC their seats (get it, want it and have the capacity to do it).
As the business owner / CEO you are the most powerful person in the company and people will respond to you. This may allow you to fix things in real time, but will prevent the organization to grow, as decision will keep filtering back to you, as the final arbiter. Further, you won’t be able to hold your direct reports accountable anymore, as you have compromised the use of their staff resources.
You want some push back
If you need urgent action lower down in the organization, discuss it with your function owner and let him or her drive the action directly. You may get some push-back from time to time, but it may sometimes be a good thing, as your people close to the action can filter half-baked initiatives from distracting from priorities.