The Truth About Accountability

A culture of accountability has many advantages. Among them are:

  • an increase in team performance (obviously) 
  • high morale (because people are growing and getting shit done)
  • lower stress for you the leader (because you’re dealing with things proactively) ; and
  • business results (when a team is thriving and executing, result have to happen – it can’t be any other way)

If that sounds attractive (and it should), then the question to ask yourself is “how effective am I at building a culture of accountability?” You’ll be among good company if your answer is lower than you’d like it. It’s a common trap—so let’s not stay there. Let’s take it up a notch (or 10). And here’s how you can do it.

First, the truth

You can’t hold someone accountable.

Sure, you could use all to go to tactics we see some parents using – yelling, guilt and shame (I don’t recommend any of those – in your business or with your kids) but would you rather that YOU have to change someone’s behaviour or would you rather THEY do it? Your true goal as a leader is to help people grow their sense of internal accountability. Your role is to help them either want to get it done or to develop the skills to get it done.

If a person has clarity on the need, the drive to do it and the skills and the resources to do it, they will act. The part of leadership that encompasses accountability is being able to identify and shift where a person has a block. It is usually one of those three elements that are lacking.

With that principle understood, let’s look at the tactics.

Step 1 – The Relationship

For communication to be effective, a relationship needs to be healthy. We listen most closely and openly to those we respect and those whom we feel respect and care for us. Knowing this truth, it is critical that your relationships with your team have a healthy foundation of mutual respect and care. So your first step in helping someone develop their accountability is to check with your own internal view of that person. Second, check in with your view of yourself – self-respect is critical.

Where respect and care are lacking, communication will have an edge, and the intent behind the act will flavour the communication in an unhelpful way, whether you mean to or not.

Step 2 – Clear expectations

To be accountable for something, you first need to know what you are to be accountable for. It sounds obvious, but over and over again we’ve seen lack of clarity between the leader’s expectations and that of the team. Put things in writing. Test your communication by having the person repeat back to you the communication they have received.

When it comes to clarity of roles in the business, we are big believers in position contracts that outline 3-7 key outcomes a person is accountable for. These are defined by criteria for success, so everyone is crystal clear on what the expectations are.

(Fill out the form below to download a free sample)

Step 3 – Framework for the conversations

We use a FeedForward system that is a document allowing two parties to have a candid and objective discussion.

(Fill out the form below to download)

The intent behind the discussion is how to help a person move forward vs. pointing out where they are doing badly. The conversation is driven by the team member, not the leader. The leader acts more as a facilitator to help the person discover opportunities for themselves in the three areas we previously identified (clarity on expectations, motivation, skills & resources).

When these conversations happen proactively (before there is a problem), the feeling behind the interaction is way different than when it is too late.

Now, if you have a situation that is already too late—no problem. Still get started immediately, but you’ll need to take complete responsibility for your lack of action to date. Before you can express your dissatisfaction with their performance or behaviour, you may need to own up to not being clear about expectations or giving more guidance before now. Always point the finger at yourself before pointing it at others.

There is a very good chance that if you feel there is a problem, the other person knows it too, or they are just plain unhappy at work. Either way, there is a good reason to get the issues on the table and sort it out. You both stand to benefit.

Ideally, you don’t want to let it get to that stage. Be the leader you know you are. Be assertive and give your team the gift of accountability. With a strong sense of internal accountability, everyone’s lives become better, and that will make your business better.

When your people grow, so does your business— sometimes exponentially.

Good luck and I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Cheers
Jamie

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7 Must-Haves for a Successful Relationship (With Your Business Coach)

If you are thinking of engaging a business coach, it can be muddy waters. The internet is filled with many claims and ‘secrets.’ So how do you know what to believe?

This article, of course, is totally biased because I am a business coach. That said, I am also a business coach who has learned much about what makes a successful coaching engagement. I’ve been coaching business owners since 2005, and while I’m very proud of the results my team and I have been able to generate for clients, there have certainly  been a few engagements that have taught me some lessons the hard way.

Here are the seven components I believe make a successful client/coach relationship:

  1. Think long term, not a quick fix – there are times when you will indeed have some quick wins. In many cases when we start working with a new client, there is some low hanging fruit that is easily reaped and that makes everyone happy. That said, long term sustainable results often take time and hard work. Be willing for that. Make sure neither you or your coach have a ‘quick fix’ mindset. There is no need to make things harder than they need be – in today’s world of ‘hacks,’ and immediate gratification, shortcuts can be tempting but rarely last.
  2. Personality fit – you need to like each other. Sure, coaching can work without likability, but if your sessions with your coach are not enjoyable because of a personality clash, you just won’t get all you could from the engagement.
  3. Communication and simple language – a personal red flag of mine when engaging any professional is when they use complex language and excess industry jargon. This is often a mask to make them sound smarter than they may be. An effective coach should be able to communicate complex ideas using simple language. At the end of the day, building a business, while certainly not easy, is not overly complex, make sure your coach sees that too.
  4. Asking uncomfortable questions – you are not looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear. In fact, in many cases, you may need the exact opposite. When you are speaking with your prospective coach, notice how willing they are to ask you uncomfortable questions. Also look for objectiveness and compassion in the way they ask the questions.
  5. Root cause – a great business coach, will be able to identify the root cause of an issue quickly and help you find a path through it in a way that is doable for you. Everything in life and business boils down to the first principles of business, which are the real keys to success; and a great coach is a master of using these principles.
  6. Responsiveness – this is really a 101 for any service provider. If you really matter to your coach, they will respond to you within an appropriate time frame. This is a simple point of respect and professionalism.
  7. Your intuition – after speaking with a coach, you should feel clearer in your thinking and empowered and able to act. You should feel a degree of growth in your thinking and/or skills. At the end of a session, your gut should tell you ‘this is working.’ What I’m really saying here is, check in with yourself after speaking with the coach and ask ‘does this feel right?’. For me, every client engagement that has not gone well (don’t worry, there aren’t that many), I really knew at the start the fit was not right. You will also know, if you slow down, take a quiet moment and ask yourself the question, “is this the right coach for me?”.

While this list is not exhaustive, it is the top seven things I would encourage you to consider when hiring a business coach. This will be a very important relationship in your business life. A relationship that can and should change you and your business or the better.

Good luck.

P.S. If you’re still not sure how business coaching can help you be the entrepreneur you seek to be, consider subscribing to our Business Nutrition Newsletter, packed with just enough fuel for your fire. Sign up below.

To access the entire Business Nutrition archive for free, click HERE

Simple and Effective Marketing

Effective Marketing of your business can be an extremely simple endeavour if you allow it to be. You already have all you need to get out there and make it happen. The best way to approach your business marketing is to think about the problems your potential ideal customers face and provide educational content around that to help. That’s it.
You already know these problems. You come across them every day through the customers you are already dealing with. And you have the knowledge and expertise to solve them, I mean that’s what your business does right? Now just incorporate this into your marketing.
Start listing out those problems and the subsections within them. That way you can start to see where the opportunities for helpful content lie.
Now think about how you want to produce content to help with those problems. You’ve essentially got three options:
  • Writing
  • Audio
  • Video
Writing can take the form of a blog (easiest and quickest), white papers or books (from simple e-books to full published works). You then have the opportunity to re-purpose your written content. For example, a blog article you write could also be an article you submit to publication (e.g., magazine) or post on your LinkedIn profile.
In fact, all content you produce, you’ll not only post on your website (helping with your sites SEO) but you can and should share through as many platforms as you can manage or are active on.
Audio content could also be blog posts, however in audio form. Or it could be a podcast published through iTunes. You can also have your audio content transcribed if you want to have it written but don’t want to do it yourself.
Video is pretty self explanatory. This would be hosted on a YouTube channel and then posted on your blog and other social media channels/pages.

 

Making Your Marketing Happen

What does all this cost? Just some time. And yes I hear you saying “but I don’t have any time!!”. If that is your response, then you should have money to pay others to help you create the content. The reality is, if you don’t have the money or the time, then somethings wrong. You are most likely spending time on the wrong things, and that is a subject for another post. On the other hand, if you need to know how to get “unstuck” and free up your time, reach out and we’ll be happy to chat with you about it.
If you’ve never done some of these things then getting it all setup and working can seem daunting. And when you first get started it might feel clumsy and inefficient. Stick with it, because the more practice you get, the easier (and more effective) it will become.

 

More Resources for Effective Marketing

A great book that can help you in this area is The Boomerang Effect by Tim Reid. Tim also hosts the podcast Small Business Big Marketing which is well worth a listen. It’s a quick read and will give you great ideas.
Keep your marketing simple. Focus on the problems your customers and potential customers have and find ways that are true to who you are, to help them.
Now get out there and make it happen!

Simple and Effective Marketing

Effective Marketing of your business can be an extremely simple endeavour if you allow it to be. You already have all you need to get out there and make it happen. The best way to approach your business marketing is to think about the problems your potential ideal customers face and provide educational content around that to help. That’s it.
You already know these problems. You come across them every day through the customers you are already dealing with. And you have the knowledge and expertise to solve them, I mean that’s what your business does right? Now just incorporate this into your marketing.
Start listing out those problems and the subsections within them. That way you can start to see where the opportunities for helpful content lie.
Now think about how you want to produce content to help with those problems. You’ve essentially got three options:
  • Writing
  • Audio
  • Video
Writing can take the form of a blog (easiest and quickest), white papers or books (from simple e-books to full published works). You then have the opportunity to re-purpose your written content. For example, a blog article you write could also be an article you submit to publication (e.g., magazine) or post on your LinkedIn profile.
In fact, all content you produce, you’ll not only post on your website (helping with your sites SEO) but you can and should share through as many platforms as you can manage or are active on.
Audio content could also be blog posts, however in audio form. Or it could be a podcast published through iTunes. You can also have your audio content transcribed if you want to have it written but don’t want to do it yourself.
Video is pretty self explanatory. This would be hosted on a YouTube channel and then posted on your blog and other social media channels/pages.

 

Making Your Marketing Happen

What does all this cost? Just some time. And yes I hear you saying “but I don’t have any time!!”. If that is your response, then you should have money to pay others to help you create the content. The reality is, if you don’t have the money or the time, then somethings wrong. You are most likely spending time on the wrong things, and that is a subject for another post. On the other hand, if you need to know how to get “unstuck” and free up your time, reach out and we’ll be happy to chat with you about it.
If you’ve never done some of these things then getting it all setup and working can seem daunting. And when you first get started it might feel clumsy and inefficient. Stick with it, because the more practice you get, the easier (and more effective) it will become.

 

More Resources for Effective Marketing

A great book that can help you in this area is The Boomerang Effect by Tim Reid. Tim also hosts the podcast Small Business Big Marketing which is well worth a listen. It’s a quick read and will give you great ideas.
Keep your marketing simple. Focus on the problems your customers and potential customers have and find ways that are true to who you are, to help them.
Now get out there and make it happen!

Emotion Can be a Business Asset

Time to Watch: 4:34

It’s important to know what your goal is and how you’re going to execute it, but sometimes one of the missing ingredients is having the emotional leverage or clarity around why you’re going for something and the drive to see it through. This clarity of emotion is a business strength your don’t want to ignore.

In the pursuit of any goal, there’s ups and downs, but it’s when things are challenging and going against you, that you need those emotional reserves. In this video I’m not going to walk you through the actual planning process—there’s a cracker of a guide HERE that teaches you how to do that—but rather, we’re going to go through some east steps to tap into those emotional reserves when you need them.

What you’ll need to complete this exercise is a blank piece of paper, divided into three columns and enter your information as follows:

  1. Write your goal in the middle column. The only guideline here is to make sure you are picking S.M.A.R.T. goals. That is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented with a Timeframe. SMART goals are critical in the planning process, particularly so you can gain a better picture of what success for that goal looks like in reality.
  2. In the left-hand column, write the all the “WHY” reasons which relate to the goal. Behind every goal is a feeling, an emotion – and the emotional result that you want to achieve through that goal. Don’t skip this step or shake this task as a feel-good, fluff piece which doesn’t have any basis—nothing could be further from the truth. What you want to distill here are all the emotional reasons you want to achieve the goal. For example – if the goal is financial and you want to pay down your mortgage faster, list the emotional benefits you will gain by doing so (more disposable income to travel, more time with family, helping your children financially—whatever it is that fuels your fire). It is the feelings you will get from achieving that goal that will sustain you in the low times.
  3. Finally, in the right-hand column is the “HOW.” Don’t worry about getting this column ‘right.’ The ‘how’ column is all about brainstorming. This is the place to list every possible way you can think of to achieve that goal (and you may need an extra page to do this—that’s ok!). Once you have an exhaustive list, you can go back, prioritize and figure out and ask yourself, “which ones make sense?”, “which ones do I have the resources/time/ability to do.” Etc…
  4. From there, we advocate that you develop a structure to execute the plan and to help solidify your tasks and timelines. To do this, feel free to access our free 90-Day Planning guide which has all the tools and resources to help you develop and track your plan.

That’s it! The absolute importance of planning with purpose and emotion can’t be understated. The clearer you get on your goals, the more emotional leverage you have behind you to help you achieve those goals you’ve been dreaming of.

Dream big!

P.S. You can access the jam-packed Planning Edition of our Business Nutrition Newsletter HERE.

And for more free training Videos, subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

How to Avoid Being “That Boss”

Time to Watch: 3:16

Whether you call yourself a Boss, Leader, or Owner, there’s a very fine line between setting the pace and driving the pace. Knowing the difference is critical to the health of your team. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “Boss think” on this one, and it can be detrimental to the health and productivity of your team. Here’s how to effectively set the pace as a leader, no matter what stage your business is at.

What we’re talking about here is your effect on the team in terms of your behaviour around implementation and execution. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you aren’t held to account in the same way that your people are, but to echo a sometimes-overused phrase, you really do need to lead by example to get the results you want.

You can’t create separate standards for yourself and your team, because the difference will be stark, and the result will be the creation of an “us vs. them” culture which does nothing to promote, ingenuity, motivation or retention—all cornerstones of a successful business.

If you’re looking to be a team and work as a team, then you need to actively participate as one of the team, regardless of how you view yourself in the culture of the business.

What are your biggest challenge jumping into the trenches? Let us know in the comments below.

And if you watch this and think: “If there’s no ‘I’ in team, why am I doing all the work?” This read is for you.

Get out there and have fun with it, and if you’ve hit a stumbling block, we can help. Reach out and let us know what you need.

Cheers,

 

Keep in the loop with our latest rapid training videos on SalesUp!TV

8 Critical Questions to Ask Your Business-Self Before 2018

For all you ‘A type’ business owners out there, how many of you (like me, many times) find yourselves always charging from goal to goal in the pursuit of evermore? You know where this is leading right? The power of taking some time out to ask critical questions and reflect on what ‘has been’ is a very powerful way of making sure the future you are about to create is:

  1. the future you want, and
  2. that you are going to go about it in the best way you know how.

I was sitting down with a new client last week, and he told me about his annual ritual of taking a step back, looking at what he’s accomplished, looking at where he is relative to the plan he created and asking the question “Am I going to keep doing this for another year?”. The ‘this’ in his case is his business. While you may or may not be open to the option to ‘stop running your business,’ it’s an empowering notion to consciously realise you have the choice. Yes, there may be consequences, but you still have the choice. More importantly, taking the time to ask reflective questions (hopefully insightful ones), is a healthy practise that the best business owners consistently adopt.

This year, I crafted a list of questions. They are based on some I’ve used previously and are designed to extract from my mind the lessons and best practises I’ve encountered over the past 12 months (or 40yrs for that matter). Knowing if I bring these thoughts forward to my conscious, I can then proactively apply them moving forward. Let me share them with you.

Reflection:

  1. Looking back over the past 12 months what were the greatest wins for my business?
    • What were the actions, relationships or events that led to these wins?
    • If I had to bottle this as a recipe, what would be the key ingredients?
  2. Looking back over the past 12 months what were the greatest wins for my personal life?
    • What were the actions, relationships or events that led to these wins?
    • If I had to bottle this as a recipe, what would be the key ingredients?
  3. What were my main points of focus over the past year?
  • Given where I am now:
    • which of those would I consider to have been worthwhile?
    • which were possibly a waste of time?
  1. What should I have quit sooner?
    • In hindsight, what are the signs I might have seen (if I knew what to look for) that could have led me to this decision sooner?
  2. What should I have put more effort into? How could I have known to do so earlier?
  3. Looking at all this, what are the biggest lessons of the past year.
    • How can I apply them moving forward?
    • Who can help me?
  4. How do I currently see my SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
  5. Is my 3-5yr vision still relevant? What changes do I want to make?
    • Looking at my 3-5 year vision, what are my one-year goals.

I find it best to ponder these over a glass of wine – it tends to loosen my creativity ????

Enjoy the questions and more importantly be sure to apply what you learn from answering them…and if you need someone to bounce those ideas off – we’re always ready. Reach out HERE

5 Ways to Make Better Business Decisions

When we started working with Adam he told us he didn’t have the time to measure stuff, let alone the time to compile and analyse the results.

Adam’s situation is typical of many small business owners.

While not all our clients say it to our face, we can see the anguish on their face when we start talking about metrics and reporting.

Here’s how we got Adam excited about numbers to the point where we had to put the brakes on him measuring too much.

We started by asking Adam, “What would you say to an athlete that was trying to run a record time but was not timing their efforts?”. Predictably he said he’d tell them they were crazy.

Next, we asked “How comfortable would you be flying on a plane whose pilot could not read the controls?” Again came a predictable response “Not very”.

“Or what about a doctor who prescribes medication without measuring any of your vitals like blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.” … Adam could see the theme.

Bringing it closer to home we asked “What about a business (not yours) that you invested your life savings into and the CEO didn’t know the profit margins on the work they were doing. They also didn’t understand the numbers behind their marketing so had no idea how to grow the business. How safe would you feel about your investment?” This one made Adam sit up a little straighter.

He knew where we were going, and we probably didn’t have to ask him the next question, but we wanted to drive the point home. You see Adam was not doing nearly as well as he wanted to—and on this point of measuring—he had his head in the sand.

Last question … “Adam, what’s the difference between all these examples and you and your business? If it’s important for all these other people to measure and read the results, what do you think might be good for you and your business?”

He got it.

There’s a business mantra “What gets measured gets managed”. And while we are huge proponents of this mantra, there’s another quote by Einstein that we also like. He says “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”. 

For small business owners, both of these quotes need to be taken into account. When you are short on time and possibly lacking easy access to data (although this is rapidly changing with cloud accounting and other apps), starting simple is the key.

Follow these four steps to gain some meaningful data which will enable you to start making better businesses decisions.

  1. Brainstorm a list of possible things to measure (here are some to get you started)
    • Marketing (lead sources, retention rate, website performance, referral rate, social media stats, campaign results, cost per lead, etc.)
    • Sales (conversion rates [dissected by lead source and salespeople], pipeline stats [how many fall off where], average quote value, average job value, margin, sales activities, discounts, new vs. existing customers)
    • Operations (major costs/sales, project completion duration, Work In Progress, quality stats, bottlenecks, scrap or waste)
    • People (turnover, absenteeism, survey responses, revenue/employee, etc.)
    • Financial – AR Days, AP Days, Inventory days, Gross Margins,
  2. Identify top 5 that will give you meaningful information for your business. Things to consider:
    • Which number, if measured, will make other numbers less important (e.g. an employee survey may give you way more insight vs. measuring absentee days, and it requires fewer resources to measure)?
    • Which numbers can we measure easily?
  3. Take the top 3 from this list and commit to measuring them for 90 days. If 3 is too hard, make it less. Your primary goal here is to develop the habit, make it easy to be successful and see the value from having some accurate numbers. Note: Allocate accountability for each number.
  4. At the end of 90 days, review what you’ve accomplished and do 1 – 3 of the following:
    • Amend what you are measuring – you may have found out that was not the best thing to being measuring
    • Add to what you’re measuring. Over time you’ll want to have a more robust scorecard than just 3 numbers. Gradually add to it as it makes sense.
    • Develop a wish list of other numbers to measure. Having numbers on your wish list lets you know they are not forgotten and can forgo the temptation to try to measure too many at once.
  5. Be sure to look at the numbers at least weekly. The more often you look at them, the more beneficial they will be. The exception here is, of course, numbers that require long periods of time to change, though these are usually few. Also be sure to display data in a format that is meaningful. (i.e. sometimes you need to see trends vs. stand-alone numbers.) For example. # quotes mean more when there is something to compare it too.

Building a Profit-First Budget

Budgeting is not something most business owners would list as one of their most exciting tasks – and that’s ok, but it is necessary, and there is a way to build a budget that makes profit non-negotiable. Here’s how you can create a budget which helps you think differently about how you manage the expense side of your business, and will radically change your profit results.

The Hidden Profit Centre in Your Business

Think HR has no bearing on profitability? Think again…

Having long been denounced as nothing more than a cost centre and a necessary part of doing business, the people management aspects of an organization (specifically HR) have been overlooked as an integral component of the profit structure of an organization. The link, however, is a lot stronger than many businesses have traditionally thought.

In a recent study on management practices in Fortune 1000 companies, the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California found that employee involvement measures (that traditionally sit well beneath the HR umbrella) show a solid ROI and link to the bottom line.

For small to medium-sized businesses who don’t even have an HR department, the impact of this study is even larger, as decisions made at owner-run businesses see an immediate trickle-down effect due to the smaller work structures, and can see a positive impact in the bottom linke much sooner than a larger organization. The key is in increasing the employee commitment to the organization.

Any one of the following measures can be implemented by a company to see a lasting improvement in financial returns (not to mention the cost-savings garnered from reduced turnover):

  • Employees generally feel that if an investment is made in them, they will return that investment in-kind. Establish a feeling of “repricosity” through:
    • Information-sharing
    • Skills training
    • Encouragement of ownership thinking
    • Fostering “buy-in” for organizational change measures
    • De-centralizing decision-making
  • Using technology for process improvement, not just cost-cutting benefits. If employees are brought into the process on the ground level, working backwards and can have input into process design, hey are more willing to manage change, and feel a greater benefit of new technology as a tool for them—not just because it’s cheaper for the organization
  • Building a culture which values job-security – which means attaching value to the person over the employee number.

Each of these measures is fiscally achievable in one way or another, even for very small businesses and engage in the employee’s higher level needs, which leads to increased productivity, better customer interactions, a willingness to tackle challenges and stick with the company–all which have a positive impact on profit.

Small tweaks can often have the greatest impact on profitabilty, particularly if they are seemingly unrelated to the bottom-line. Remember that everything in your organization starts and ends with culture, so before you tweak your marketing, sales prices, or slash costs to boost productivity, have a critical look at how investments to your people-practices can pay you back in spades.