Bergdahl Blogs: What Would Sam Walton Do #3 – ACCOUNTABILITY

“A promise we make is a promise we keep.  High expectations are the key to everything.”  Sam Walton

Maintain Your Standards By Holding People Accountable

A large part of Sam Walton’s success can be attributed to his ability to set high standards, while simultaneously holding his team accountable for reaching their lofty goals.  Whether it was sales growth, expense control or managing payroll Mr. Sam expected his team to either meet or exceed their goals.  He empowered every leader with the full responsibility and authority to make the decisions necessary to do their jobs.  As professionals, he expected them to fully understand their job performance metrics and to proactively take ownership of their P&L (Profit & Loss) responsibilities. Sam Walton created a leadership and employee performance culture characterized by empowerment, ownership and accountability.   

Mr. Sam expected everyone around him to work hard and exert the maximum effort, but effort alone was not enough.  The efforts of his team had to yield results.   Mr. Sam set his goals high for the organization and he measured progress.  Along the way he held his people accountable, by only rewarding those who were actually successful in achieving the desired results.

Each year, Mr. Sam expected people to set aggressive goals.  He found that by letting his managers set their own goals, with input from their teams, (with profit and loss targets he provided), company leaders would often set their goals at levels higher than Mr. Sam would have set them!  Once the goals were established Sam Walton held managers accountable for monitoring the achievement of those goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis..  In fact, Mr. Sam expected his store managers and distribution center (DC) managers to review the Profit and Loss (P&L) statement for their location with the hourly paid employees each week, so the employees clearly understood how their Store or DC was performing to plan.  

Sam Walton was once asked if he was concerned that his competitors might get ahold of the P&L statements that were so readily available across the company.  He responded that the upside of providing the P&L information to everyone who worked for Walmart far exceeded the downside of competitors getting a copy.  Besides he reasoned, what will my competitors do with the information that could possibly do any harm to Walmart?   To this day, Walmart remains one of the only large companies that routinely reviews the details of Its P&L with all of Its managers and employees.  

Sam Walton believed you can’t hold people accountable for falling short if they don’t understand the P&L Statement.   

What Would Sam Walton Do #3 – ACCOUNTABILITY:  A question for you is this:  Do your managers fully understand and monitor their accountability for sales, payroll and expense performance on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?  More importantly are they making the necessary adjustments to achieve their plan?  Sam Walton’s recommendation to other business leaders would be: “Set Aggressive Goals, Hold People Accountable for Achieving Them, and Only Reward Results.”

Your team can learn more about “Accountability at Walmart” from Michael Bergdahl’s book and speech titled:  THE TEN RULES OF SAM WALTON.

Michael Bergdahl is the author of 5 books and he is an international keynote speaker and master class leader. He worked with Sam Walton and he is an expert on Walmart’s Best Leadership Practices.

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