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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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.

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 Strong is Your Network?

It’s been said that your net worth is a reflection of your network, and when it comes to the sales and marketing of your business, a good network is an extremely valuable tool.

However, it’s important to note that a network is not just the sum of the people you know.

It takes strategy and intention to create a network that will help grow your business. Watch to discover what makes a healthy network, and how to make it happen for your business.

 

How to Make Yourself More Referable

This video is NOT about how to get more referrals (well, not directly anyway) It’s about how to boost your level of trust with your clients or customers to become more referable. By identifying your best possible sources of referrals and building those relationships you will see a boost in both the quality and quantity of your referrals.

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.

The Importance of Sleep

Keeping your energy high is critical to achieving great things. And one key component of high energy is getting enough sleep.

Life is not perfect and we may not always get the sleep we need … so what do you do? Do you soldier on or do you take ‘sleep action’.

Here’s my strategy!

 

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.

 

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.

 

Business Lessons From Mountain Biking #2 – What is your Sales speed?

The speed at which you approach situations matters. The speed at which you manage others matters.

In this short video, Business Coach Jamie Cunningham shares some mountain biking analogies and shows how your sales speed can affect your outcomes.