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

Download Your FreeTemplates

Fill in your details to receive a copy of the Feed Forward Form and Position Contract!

Congratulations! Your template is on it's way

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

An Important Lesson in Self-Reflection

In helping others to create the best businesses possible, one key ingredient for high levels of success (as I preach to my clients), is radical responsibility. The following is a story about how I recently failed to do just that.

What does radical responsibility mean? It means accepting that you have 100% control of your choices and responses in any and every moment of your day, week and life. And because you have that level of control over your responses, you also have a massive amount of influence on the outcomes you generate. Those outcomes may not always come about in the ways you imagine or the timeframe you intend, but given the unlimited choices you have to achieve your outcomes, their achievement is arguably always achievable.

This concept is easy to understand but can start to get grey in situations where the triggering event appears to be out of your control. This is particularly true when attempting to keep your cool in stressful situations, or remaining level-headed in heated conversations loaded with (what you perceive to be) untrue accusations.

I recently had the gift of experiencing the latter. And, after days of reflection, my immediate response to the event floored me.

After having a disagreement with someone in my life, I managed to develop a story that completely justified my response and pointed blame (or at least 80% of it) on the other person involved. Now, if you ask most people, I’m pretty sure they will tell you I am a person that does take personal responsibility for my life and outcomes. And given I am the guy who helps others do the same to grow their businesses, I pride myself on walking the talk. My self-identity is a person who takes 100% responsibility. And that was part of the problem. Because I was so sure of myself, I was blind to the reality.

And it got worse. Perhaps, deep down I knew the story I was telling myself was not based in truth, I don’t know, but I subsequently looked for some ‘sounding boards’ to make sure I was not missing something. Yet, upon reflection, the ‘sounding boards’ I chose were people who I knew would take my side. When explaining the situation, my language made it appear like I was taking responsibility but truthfully, I flavoured it (unconsciously) in a way that the response I always got from them was ‘it sounds like you are doing the right thing’ which further justified and supported my story. A sure danger sign that I willingly ignored.

I don’t know why I did this, but some days later I called another ‘sounding board.’ But this one was different. Perhaps I was now ready to find the truth. Brad is also a business coach, and our relationship is such that we hold each other to the highest standard in the toughest of times (and we’ve both been through a few). We never let each other off the hook. So, how do you think this call went?

Brad asked a few probing questions and reflected back some of the things I was saying and in short, gave me the lens of radical responsibility. What I saw was enlightening. The truth was that regardless of the other person’s behaviour (of which I have no control) I always have control over the story I tell myself, and subsequently, my emotional response.

While the other person’s behaviour had triggered anger within me, that trigger was mine to own. My ego did not want to admit this, nor did it want to accept that I needed to do some work and look at myself.

So here’s what happened:

When I next met up with this person, there was hostility in the air. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the decision I had made to take radical responsibility. I reminded myself that I have complete control over how I handle this and how I handle this will have a massive impact on the outcome. I knew I wanted a great relationship with this person, so I needed to stay focused on that and park my ego. The long-term relationship was way more important than the short-term fix of feeding my ego with the need to be ‘right’ (which was always in question anyway).

That first conversation went was something like this:

Me – “We don’t need to talk in depth about what happened if you don’t want to but I do want to share some reflection I’ve had over the past week. I see now that the response I chose in the moment was not fair. And the things you had said to me that fuelled my response do have truth in them. I can see now that I had created stories in my mind that made me feel justified in my behaviour and put me in the ‘right.’ While your behaviour had triggered a response in me, that is my trigger to own. Your behaviour is not the issue here. You have my word that I am now conscious of what happened in me and am committed to working on it. I also apologise for hurting you, which I have clearly done. That was never my intention.”

Them – “Thank you for that but I’m not innocent either.”

Me – “That is for you to judge. All I know is what I need to own and work on.”

It took a lot of work to get me to the point where I was not concerned about trying to change the other person’s behaviour. Before this incident, I really felt it needed to change. The work I did in the week between the event and the reconciliation allowed me to let go of that need and just focus on what was going on inside my own head. The decision to do this was relieving and energising. I no longer had the pressure to try and change something that I could not control.

This situation is still current for me so I can’t tell you how it ends. What I do know is that communication moving forward will be completely different because now instead of needing the other person to be a certain way so I can stay in control emotionally, I am conscious to the fact that I hold the power over my emotions. It may need some different tactics from time to time to get the result I want, but that is still all within my control and I know the next interaction with this person will hold a completely different energy.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend, and we were philosophising over the concept of being comfortable with uncertainty. and the danger of certainty in some situations. My recent experience speaks to that. When I was certain on my story, it prevented self-awareness.

Always be willing to ask “how am I contributing to this?” “What don’t I see or know?”, “What am I assuming to be true that may not be?”

To finish up with some practical tools, the best reading I’ve done on this subject is a book called ‘Crucial Conversations.’ Having the tools is helpful, but having the ability to park your ego is also sometimes the greatest challenge. I know it is for me.

Good luck.

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

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.

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.

Team Alignment: Profit Sharing

Your employees don’t have to be owners to share in ownership thinking – in fact, ownership thinking can be critical to the success of your company. Profit sharing can be a good way of creating transparency and ownership – but it’s not for every organization. See when and how this tool can work for you – and when it won’t.

How to Shift Your Beliefs Around Sales … and Shift Sales Results.

When it comes to the word ‘sales’ everyone’s got their thoughts around it. Most commonly the initial thought reflex when someone here’s the word is a negative one. Most people have had that experience with the pushy sales person whether it was the classic used car scenario, or the door to door energy broker or even the fundraiser who’s working hard to hit target. And of course when we have a negative experience with anything, we tend to guide our behaviour to not be like that. So we tend to hear people say things like “I don’t have what it takes to be good at sales. I’m too nice” or “I just couldn’t sleep at night if I was in sales knowing I’ve manipulated someone”.

Any kind of thinking or believe that is along these lines, to put it bluntly, is misinformed. The truth is if you’ve ever worked to influence someone in anyway (ask someone out on a date, ask someone to be on your team, convince friends to go restaurant A vs B etc, bring a new idea into your workplace) you are in sales. Sales is the transference of an idea.

The trick is that bad sales is pushy transference of an idea and those who do it are simply untrained. End of story. Perhaps their ethics are questionable … maybe. I’m not saying those people aren’t out there but the vast majority of bad sales experiences simply come from a lack of training.

In this realisation there could be massive opportunity for you and your business. Here are a couple of things to think about

  1. What are your beliefs around sales (positive or negative) and how does that affect your performance and ability to grow your business?
  2. What are your teams beliefs around sales? Where could they be more assertive in spotting opportunities to help your customers?
  3. What would the affect be on your business if everyone on your team had a healthy and positive view of sales AND had the skills to spot and nurture opportunities?

Assuming there is some opportunity there for you and your team, here are five tips you can use to change the way you and your team think about sales

  1. Be a proactive helper – move from selling to helping. Think about it this way, what problem does your company solve? And if you were to come across a person or company with that problem, would you let them suffer or would you want to help? People who care about others always want to help. When you are feeling salesy it is most often because you are thinking about yourself and your commission, not how you can help someone. And remember, helping someone does not always mean you have to sell something. What do they truely need?
  2. Become great at asking questions – when you can ask thought provoking questions, it is easier to engage people and find out what they need. Asking great questions also communicates that you are interested in them and you care. Great questions get to the emotion behind the problem or need. When you can help people achieve the feeling they are after, you make their life better.
  3. Become an expert – to be able to help at the highest level, you need to be as good as you can be at what you do. When you are great at your craft, you have more ability to help others, ask better questions and you will naturally instil confidence in the person you are seeking to help. Deep knowledge builds confidence and confidence is crucial when it comes to influencing others.
  4. Have a network – your customers have more problems than you have the ability to solve. To improve the value you can bring to others, have people in your network that can solve some of the other common problems your customers have. This puts you in a different league to your competitors, and ensure you are truely focused on helping vs making a sale. When people know your true intention, they feel good about you. When people feel good about you, trust goes up. When trust and likability go up, you make sales. And even if that person doesn’t buy from you (because they don’t have a true need), they may refer someone who will.
  5. Play the long game – there are times when you should make a sale right here and now. There are other times when the timing is just not right. Have enough experience and objectivity to know the difference. The sales not made today can often become a much bigger sale down the track. My only caveat to this is don’t allow this to become an excuse for letting someone not make a decision when they really should. Influencing people in way that will benefit them can mean helping them to make a decision. Deference of decisions rarely helps.

Business Lessons From the Bike Trail #3

Sometimes, even in leisure – things don’t always go as planned. In our third installment of Business Lessons from the Bike Trail we talk about some quick and easy ways to ensure you are preparing for a successful day – no matter what comes your way.

Creating Your Perfect Week

It’s one thing to create a 90-day plan (yes we’ve got a video on that) but translating that into an ideal week needs to be intentional.