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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The Onboarding Failures That Are Costing You Big

Finding (and keeping) great employees is consistently listed as a top concern of business owners. In fact, a recent study indicates anywhere between 10-25% of new employees jump ship within their first six months on the job. That’s a frustrating and expensive prospect on both sides of the coin, and one which could be greatly reduced with a change to some of the most common employee onboarding mistakes made by companies trying to integrate a new team member. Below are three of the worst barriers to successful onboarding—and some suggestions to combat them.

Problem #1: The Expectation Gap

According to executives interviewed, the top reason new employees leave is that their role wasn’t what they expected when they got hired. Many employees quickly discover that the daily tasks they’re asked to complete don’t tend to match what’s on their job descriptions and fall under the all too overused caveat of “other tasks as assigned.” Employees who find themselves consistently performing unexpected tasks find it difficult to link those tasks to the overall mission of the organization and discontent finds easy purchase in that soil. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest issues to rectify—and it can (and should) be fixed long before an employee’s first day.

The Solution

Dealing with the expectation gap is easily avoided by communicating a realistic job preview from the moment the job advertisement is posted. If you are aware that the job overview contains elements which may exist in a job description but are never used in practice, then they shouldn’t be included in an ad. If you have a position which sees a lot of turnover which doesn’t have to do with the nature of the job (for example, being a “feeder” job or a stepping stone by design to allow movement to other roles in the organization), then it may be time to review the job profile to see where there is a gap between expectation and reality. The best place to reinforce the picture of what day-to-day life will be like in the role is during the interview. This provides ample information for the candidate to consider the true nature of the job before accepting, allows the opportunity to ask questions and provides the added value of being able to view their body language for clues as to what they truly feel.

Problem #2: A Lack of Preparation

How many times has a new employee shown up for their first day while someone, somewhere, is scrambling to set up computer access, provide access to work areas, create an email address or telephone extension—in some cases, even finding an empty desk to work at? When an employer is unprepared for a new hire, it sends the signal loud and clear that the employee is not a valued addition to the team and makes it incredibly difficult to integrate into the culture.

The Solution

People are only able to work at their best when they are given the right tools. A simple checklist which can be accessed by any team member responsible for setting up the new hire is a great way to complete tasks before the first day and eliminate confusion over who is responsible for what. (At SalesUp! We use Trello, which is perfect for this type of task.) If setting up a workstation requires the purchase of new equipment, involving the employee over any requirements for specific equipment (such as left/right-handed implements, or any accommodations which may not have surfaced to this point) will make the employee feel invested from the get-go, and that investment pays off when it comes time for employees to decide whether they are going to stick with a job.

Problem #3: Overwhelm and Abandonment

Starting a new job is incredibly overwhelming. From navigating office hallways to matching faces and names to interacting with customers and filling out reams of paperwork, it’s a challenging time which can result in natural second-thoughts from employees if they don’t feel they have the support to be useful members of the organization.

To be clear, alone-time is good—even essential to let employees settle into their space—but leaving them with hoards of policy manuals and no one to help answer their questions is not. To combat this, ensure that new employees have a mentor to help them through the challenging early weeks, and tap into existing employee strengths to match them with the right people. Have someone who is an extrovert and great at ice-breaking? Have them handle team introductions. Has someone in the organization performed the employee’s role? Consider a short mentorship, or at the least have them check-in and see how things are going during the first critical weeks. Of course, this doesn’t negate the value of having manager support, but peer-mentorships can go a long way to solidifying the sense of belonging that is critical to cultural development. They don’t call onboarding “organizational socialization” for nothing…

The Take Home

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Have a formalized process (and if you don’t, make one). It can be difficult to allot resources to creating processes when you aren’t in a hiring position, but adequate foresight can eliminate so many onboarding issues before the scramble of having to find a new employee.

If you need ideas on how to best handle an onboarding solution that is customized to your organization, contact us – we’d love to help.

Best of all – if you have any tips or best practices, let us know in the comments below!

 

 

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,

 

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If This Is How You Handle Employee Performance, You’re Doing it Wrong

The Employee Performance Problem

Ask any well-meaning manager what an employee performance appraisal should accomplish, and you’ll usually hear answers along the lines of: “to categorize the organization, improve employee performance and boost motivation.”

While these are all critical aims for an organization if the answer to how they currently accomplish this is through an annual performance review—then there are problems with the system. Namely, those annual performance appraisals generally only serve one of the three purposes listed above—and it isn’t performance or motivation.

So, How Did We Get Here?

The long and short of employee performance reviews is that they are derived from military practice, were never designed to foster improvement, and have long been used as a tool to cull an organization of their bottom performers. According to the Harvard Business Review, they also serve to punish past behaviour at the expense of achieving the desired future performance that is critical for organizational survival.

So, the question begs: If employees hate them, managers don’t see their value and an organization isn’t benefiting from them—why not ditch them all together?

The Elimination Problem

Well, while I was going to title this post “The Stone Age Called and They Want Their Appraisal Back,” that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as ditching the yearly recap isn’t always the best solution either. So many initiatives are tied to it, including, planning and compensation. However, the employment landscape over the last few decades has made it clear that the conversation needs to shift away from the metrical to the malleable.

Anyone familiar with the psychological principle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs knows that motivation comes in various levels: from the basic (like food, shelter, and wages), to psychological (belonging, achievement, respect of others, etc.) and finally to self-actualization (morality, problem-solving, creativity, etc.)

Although this theory has its critics, the basic premise is that human beings are striving for self-worth and acknowledgment—and if you aren’t creating an environment where this (and the resulting performance growth) can occur—your employees are going to look to another organization to fill those needs.

The take-home is it’s no longer realistic to rank an employee with performance metrics once per year, give them either a raise or a performance improvement plan, and expect that the basic needs you do satisfy (like a regular paycheque) will be enough to sustain them and motivate them to perform to a level that will grow your organization.

Where Do We Go from Here?

It’s no secret that supported, engaged employees do better—and when they do better, you do better. The goal of employee performance is to elicit behaviour that supports the organization’s bottom line while fulfilling some of those psychological needs your employees crave—and giving them the tools to do it effectively. There are several ways to get this done—and yes, you can keep your year-end appraisal—if you focus on its value as a recap of the year. A good rule of thumb is that there should never be anything in a performance appraisal that is a surprise for the employee. Other strategies could include:

  • Linking goals to key company objectives like the mission/vision (they “why you exist” stuff)
  • Tying goal achievement to collaboration and communication (not every task needs to be a group project, but increased collaboration and information sharing leads to increases across the board)
  • Training managers to check in consistently (this allows for accurate course corrections throughout the year while retaining employee autonomy. The key here is manager training)
  • Allowing the employee access to the tools, resources, and training to allow them to successfully fill any knowledge gaps they have.

Of course amended performance measures won’t solve all team issues (for an idea of what other issues employers regularly encounter and how to fix them, read this page) but it’s a good support system for overall team engagement. And of course, we’re more than happy to help with any issues you do have  in finding the system that’s right for your business.

 How about you? How do you facilitate the employee performance process, and what challenges have you encountered along the way? What do you find helpful? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

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.

How to Structure Training With Your Team

It’s a well-known fact that if you grow your people, you will grow your business – but how exactly do you raise the level of thinking to achieve those ends? Here are a few simple ways to boost the level of thinking in your key employees which will allow for desired growth.

The One Recruitment Mistake You’re Probably Making (And How to Fix It)

It’s been said that “Variety is the spice of life”. In business, this is true on a number of fronts, from investment to technology—but never does it ring truer than in the people we choose to surround ourselves with via our recruitment process.

Unfortunately, in the process of hiring, many business owners are inadvertently surrounding themselves with the wrong people which are halting business growth.

I’m speaking of course of the Halo effect—an effect so subtle, we may not even realize it’s taken hold—until we’ve made an expensive hiring mistake, that is.

In its simplest form, the Halo Effect occurs when we assume that because someone excels at (A), they will also be good at (B), and (C). During the selection process, our subconscious is making assumptions about a candidate that can be unduly influenced by the interactions we have. Take for example a hiring manager, who discovers they enjoy the same hobby as a candidate during interview pre-amble. Because, the hiring manager holds positive pre-conceived notions about that particular hobby, it influences how that candidate is assessed during all other aspects of the selection process, sometimes providing false positives where there are none. That hiring manager is being blinded by the glow of the halo, so to speak.

The halo effect can extend from any number of factors which hold a personal pre-conception for a hiring manager. The danger with the halo effect is not only that you may end up with the wrong candidate in the position, but you may end up hiring too many like-minded individuals, which can perpetuate the status quo and deprive your organization of the critical variety of personalities and thinking styles which are critical for business growth.

Luckily there are several easy-to-implement tools you can utilize to neutralize the halo effect, and we’ve rounded out the top five:

  1. Conduct a Preliminary Phase

Especially for small and medium-sized businesses who are time-crunched and resource deficient, traditional recruitment tends to follow some variation of the following: Place Ad, Review Applications, Conduct Interviews, Check References, Hire. The problem with this system is that often the first and only time you have personal contact with the candidate is during the interview process. To develop a whole candidate approach, consider developing a preliminary phase, whether that be a pre-screen phone interview, a specific set of tasks an applicant must complete to make it to the next round. The benefit of a preliminary phase is that it forces you to review different aspects of their abilities before a face-to-face meeting, which allows you to focus on the candidate’s overall abilities.

  1. Turn Your Thinking Upside Down

This one requires a bit of a shift in thinking, but if you meet a candidate who gives you an overall great impression, approach the interview with the mindset that you want them to prove that the impression matches the ability. Conversely, if the first impression is just lukewarm, adopt the mindset that you are committed to providing the benefit of the doubt. As you ask the same questions to each candidate you will find that your results tend to come out much more objective than getting carried away by emotion no matter what the first-impression.

  1. Adopt an Objective Scoring System

I cannot stress enough how much of a difference this will make to your organization. Asking the same main questions to each candidate and having an objective scoring system (like a five-point scale) rather than simply recording of their answers with a yes/no approach forces you to isolate the intent of the question, and focus on content rather than form.

At the end of the interview you will clearly see patterns that distinguish possible strengths from possible challenges, which brings us to the next point:

  1. Use Science to Your Advantage

The use of a personality assessment, job fit questionnaire or other metrical assessment will support the results of your interview impressions, and provide you the critical data about personality quirks that will either mesh with or create problems within your team. The more you practice this, the more you will discover that the scientific data will almost always uphold the interview impressions, with the added dynamic of assessing fit—which is a huge predictor of job success.

  1. Wait

Prevailing science says it takes approximately 30 seconds to form an impression, but that impression could change with a little time. With the rush of back to back interviews and short timelines to decide, we tend to rush our perceptions about candidates which otherwise might have become clearer with a little hindsight. Try to schedule some dedicated time after interviews to do at least 30 minutes of another activity before reviewing the candidates, which will provide enough space for a more objective recruitment result.

The Bottom Line

While these aren’t huge changes to implement, refining your recruitment process to eliminate bias, and the dreaded Halo Effect (whether conscious or not) will result in the selection of some more well-rounded candidates who can offer the essential variety of human capital your organization needs. In addition, you’ll likely find it will boost overall success and retention rates because after all, hiring is a two-way street. The time spent getting to know your candidates in the right way will  also allow potential employees to get a realistic feel for your business, which leads to both parties forming an informed relationship right out of the gate.

How about you? What strategies do you use that remove bias from your recrtuiment process?

The Shortest Path to More Sales

The shortest path to more sales is already sitting dormant in your business right now.

Typically when we think about growing our sales, we put on our marketing hats on and think of all those prospects out there who are currently not buying from us. We think about all the marketing channels, advertising, social media, flyers and mailers and phone calls. And while some of these may be relevant, they are rarely the shortest path.
You already have people buying from you, who trust you and are happy with your business. Or at least I hope you do. How can you leverage this further? Here are three keys ways:
  1. Referrals – before you spend any money on marketing for new customers, evaluate how well you are doing at servicing the heck out of your existing customers. If you are doing an outstanding job and they love you, you are well within your rights to ask for a referral. Make the ask appropriate for the relationship and make it easy for them to give. Be specific and grateful. If people ever feel pressured to give a referral, it will generally leave a bad taste. Be tactful and most important – make sure you are worthy!
  2. Testimonials – as per the above point, when your customers love your business, capture that in the form of a testimonial. Many testimonials provide marketing leverage and it also solidify for your customer, how they feel about your business. There is something about committing to a written statement that makes a feeling real. Following up with a referral request after a testimonial is given can work well.
  3. Add on sales – What else do they need? If you are in tune with your customers needs, odds are there are other things they need that you could be helping them with. This may be a natural extension of your existing offerings or it could be something outside your current scope of expertise. If you can offer the service directly, great. And if not then you can partner with someone who can. An example of this was a client of ours who did waterproofing. He’d had a couple of people ask him if he could recommend a window supplier. So he starting asking any customers who had old windows if they had thought about replacing them. If they said yes, he referred his ‘partner’ business to come and quote. Once the sales was made, our client received a commission on the sale.

Thinking time.

Think about this … if you and your team made a habit of looking for these three opportunities in your existing customer base, what could be possible? I’m not saying you should never pay for advertising but I believe if you can’t get these three working for you first, there may be a problem in your business model.

Unlocking Employee Potential Using the Keys You Already Have

Unlocking employee potential is easier than you might think.

When we run team alignment days to help clients with their business strategy, we coach the team through some principles that form the foundation for great teamwork. One particular exercise we run is a survival scenario, which has a byproduct of unlocking employee potential you may not even know about. We break the team into small groups of 3 or 4 and set the exercise up in a way that shows tangible improvements from working as a team vs working as individuals. Or at least that is the desired outcome. Occasionally it works out the opposite!

During the debrief of a recent team alignment day, I asked a particular group for their score. There are several scores that contribute to the overall outcome but one that is always interesting is how many people on your team had a better individual score vs team score. (i.e. who on your team would have been better on their own vs being with the team.) And as occasionally happens, one girl had an individual score that was significantly better than the team score.

I then asked the question, “why do you think your score was so much better?” Her response … “well a couple of years ago I actually did sail across the Atlantic and learned a lot about navigation, survival and sailing”. My next question … “did you happen to mention that to your team?” …. her response “No, I didn’t”

This happens in life and business all the time. We are often working with people who we know very little about. And if you think about all the experience, skills and knowledge that is probably lying there dormant … let’s tap into it.

Another case of unlocking employee potential appeared recently with one of our business coaching clients who has an employee that just finished an economics degree, majoring in accounting. As of right now, they are doing next to no analysis on their financials. Doing so will enable them to make much better decisions, so we’ve quickly moved her more into that role. Untapped resources.

 

The Potential for You

The lesson is – “who is on your team? and how well do you know them?” What skills, knowledge or natural interests do they have that you can tap into and leverage? The kicker is, people love utilizing their skills and contributing at the highest level. Particularly at what they are good at.

See what you can find out within your own team 🙂

How To Make Pressure Work For You

There is a balance point where pressure changes from positive to negative and there is also a point where pressure becomes ineffective.

Knowing what these points are for you and your sales team in critical in achieving sustained levels of high performance.