How do you ensure the people you have hired will hold themselves accountable? whether it's for a sales role, or any other role within your organization, how do you ensure accountability?
These are questions that continually come up in the executive coaching sessions we lead. In reality, they are all variations on one critical underlying question—a question sales leaders and all leaders need to address before they try to take on any other questions: How do we create and support an accountable working culture?
For many people, an accountable working culture is one of those things that, in the back of their mind, they know they want and need, but they have a hard time making it an everyday reality, or even defining what it means in practical terms. So let’s start here:
What do we mean when we use the word accountability?
Well, the simple definition of accountability is doing what you say you’re doing to do. But here’s the challenge: if you’ve got a workplace culture where people routinely are not doing what they say they’re going to do or what they are required to do, that isn’t just a problem with the individual team member. That’s also a problem with leadership.
Accountability must begin with the leader. It must begin with us looking in the mirror and asking ourselves some tough questions: Am I being congruent? Am I doing everything I say I’m going to do? Am I setting clear expectations about what I will deliver, and when, and then following through in the way that I expect others to follow through? Am I keeping my word? If there’s an obstacle to being able to keep my word, do I raise that issue myself with the people who are counting on me, openly deal with the situation, and detail my plan for dealing with it?
People listen to what we say as leaders, but they also watch what we do. If someone on our team isn’t doing what they say they are going to do, or not doing it the way we want it done, whose issue is that? We may think it’s entirely their issue – but is it? Maybe it belongs to both of us!
Yes, people need to be held accountable. But that needs to happen in the right sequence. The critical question is not whether you’re going to hold people accountable. It’s who you’re going to hold accountable first.
I would argue that, for sales leaders and for all leaders, if we are serious about building and sustaining and accountable working culture, it is always our issue first on a personal level. We need to accept as leaders that there is only one way our people will start buying into, supporting, and defending a workplace culture where people can count on each other—and that is to experience us doing what we say we're going to do, day in and day out.
When we say we want accountable salespeople, and an accountable team, what we're really saying is that we want a team where everyone can rely on everyone else performing the job they have taken on the responsibility of doing. We really can make that kind of team happen … but only if we accept the reality that, before we hold someone on our team accountable, we need to hold ourselves accountable. And set the best possible example.
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