Management Accountability: The Proverbial “Buck” Stops Here

excuse making, poor management, accountability, customer service

What’s really behind a lousy customer service moment? Let’s find out …

The Story

A consumer told us of her experience with a popular quick-serve chicken place. Here’s the phone call:

Customer: “I ordered a $13 meal online yesterday, but when I arrived at 8 pm, your lights were off and there was no one there.”

Popeyes: “We don’t do returns.”

Customer: “Returns? No, I’d like a refund.”

Popeyes: “When was this?”

Customer: “Last night.”

Popeyes: “We were open till 11.”

Customer: “Your store was dark and deserted. I was there.”

Popeyes: “Bring in your receipt today for your meal.”

Customer: “No, thanks. I’d like my refund.”

Popeyes: “We don’t do returns.”

Customer: “I will contact my bank and reverse the credit card charge.”

Popeyes: “Okay.”

The Cost

So, this paying patron has told some friends about her experience—and now you know about it. All for …


Probably not worth it to the store in the end, right? ?

Where The Real Accountability Lies

Now, what’s the real issue here? The truth behind this poor customer experience is revealed in an insightful comment from a follower of our Be Outstanding! Facebook page. (Join us with a Like there!)

When this story was posted, a follower nailed it. She wrote:

“This is so unlike this chain. How sad. It certainly speaks volumes about that store’s management team. ?”

This. Is. Exactly. Right.

Management Is Human

We don’t know who manages this store, but our hope is that he/she would take 100% accountability for the customer experience described above.

Being fallible, though, managers sometimes engage …


Imagine that. ?

Using the QBQ! book material, let’s list some classic management excuses. We’ll frame them as Incorrect Questions or IQs:

“Why doesn’t the younger generation want to work?”

“When will we find good people?”

“Why aren’t they more motivated?”

“Who made the mistake?”

“Why can’t people come in on time?”

“When will they get engaged?”

These IQs, which lead to blame and victim thinking, can be readily changed to QBQs. Managers can always ask The Question Behind the Question (QBQs) like:

“How can I be a more effective coach?”

“What can I do to better understand each team member?”

“How can I build a stronger team?”

“What can I do to infuse confidence into my staff?”

“How can I become a more skilled trainer?”

“What can I do today to truly own my operation’s results?”

These QBQs lead us to Personal Accountability—a great place to be!

The Buck …

In the end—and there’s no other way to state this—everything begins and ends with management.

As President Harry Truman said in the 1940s, the buck stopped on his desk. Please note: it still stops squarely on the boss’s desk.

If you’re the manager, are you making excuses or practicing Personal Accountability? Never forget, the buck stops with … you.

Comments welcome!


7 Responses

  1. Love the content John!

    I think it will be important for retailers to revisit de-escalation with their leaders. With Covid-19 now changing how leaders and organizations operate, the impact it has made on society and how that translates to providing the best possible service to both the internal and external guest, the health and safety of everyone is top of mind.
    I would love to get your insight on how you may see things playing out once non-essential retailers begin reopening.

    1. Jennifer, thanks for the warm words and comments. Appreciate your belief in QBQ! Interestingly, we believe our book “Outstanding!” is the message organizations need to pull themselves out of COVID-19 and succeed again. 47 different ways to be exceptional! Have your copy yet? 🙂

      1. Not Yet!

        My QBQ Library so far:
        QBQ Workbook
        Flipping The Switch

        I will be sure to add to it!

  2. Governor Andy Beshear acknowledges every day that the State of Kentucky is processing unemployment claims at an unprecedented rate and to anyone out there that hasn’t heard back or been able to file, “I’m sorry, we need to do better. Please keep trying. We want you to get your benefits.” He has legitimate excuses but, instead takes responsibility and offers hope.

  3. I think we need to define management. Else, if I’m not management, I would be tempted to push blame on the person above me. They didn’t teach me, I didn’t know, nobody told me, etc. To get rid of that attitude, I would define management, as anyone that has any responsibility for any thing. That makes everyone management, and accountable. If the culture is good, there are defined managers, but everyone else has a responsibility to help (manage) themselves, and help everyone else do better. I think that would be the ultimate team, and probably be almost unbeatable.

    1. Management = those who manage people. 🙂 That’s our definition, David! In this case, the franchise owner or “GM”/top person in the store. Thanks for sharing!

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