The Greatest Accountability Tool Available to All Leaders

I recently wrote about what most leaders miss when it comes to accountability.  There were a lot of tools and tips that I asked you to consider when it comes to creating and building accountability, personally, as well as with your team.  One area I didn’t cover that is critical to accountability is coaching.

I thought twice before I wrote the above headline. Calling coaching the greatest accountability tool there is may be a bold statement.  I think it’s right on the money.

Coaching is a tool that lazy leaders look at and decide that it’s not worth the effort.  It feels easier to bark orders, micro-manage and control.  In the short term, lazy leaders are right.

But.

Short term results are not where missions come to prosper. 

Short term results can be a step in the right direction, but short-term results don’t create lasting success.   

If you want to be a leader of influence, it’s important to look at how you can create an environment where people act in a self-directed empowered way. 

I’m sure this sounds great, but you may be getting tripped up in the implementation piece of this process.

First, let’s start with what coaching is.

Coaching is the process of unlocking another person’s potential and helping people to come to an independent understanding of what to do in a way that suits their skill and ability.  

Now that you have a definition in mind, here’s how to develop yourself as a coach and some tools to help you show up as a coach for your team.

  1. Develop a Heart for People.  If you don’t have a heart for serving other people, it’s difficult to be a coach for them.  Great coaching removes your ego from a conversation so that you can listen. It’s difficult to do this when you don’t care.
  2. Stop Judging.  Judgment is where understanding goes to die.  When you judge others, no new learning about this person can occur.  Why would it if you already know the answer?
  3. Ask Questions.  There’s a Biblical Proverb (20:5) that says the “purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, one who has insight draws them out”.  Every employee has walls that they put up to keep themselves from being known.  Your job as a leader, and a coach, is to ask questions to allow you to understand people at a deeper level.
  4. Stop Being a Fixer.  How is your team supposed to learn and understand things when you always tell them what to do, give them answers and clean up their messes?  They won’t.  Your team can’t learn problem solving skills if you don’t put them in a position to do the work.
  5. Let Your Team be the Expert.  No one knows what your team needs in their life more than the individual.  It’s true that you can provide insight and guidance, but the bulk of the work should be on your team’s shoulders to come up with ways to fix problems that they encounter. 
  6. Follow Up.  Stay engaged in the process. One conversation isn’t always enough to fix issues that come up.  Pay attention to what happens after the conversation and give feedback as to what you observe after the fact.  This will help to create accountability in the process.  It also shows that you care.

If you haven’t been trained on coaching skills and tools, look at where you can acquire and develop the training that you need to be a great coach for your team.  There are a lot of great resources out there, including at New Work Revolution.

By developing your skill in coaching, you will create a team that knows you care, comes up with solutions to problems and moves forward with those solutions in a powerful way.  The more you and your team go through this process the more empowered and confident they will be.  This is where accountability happens in a big way. 

What Ineffective Leaders Miss in Accountability

Accountability is an important topic for leaders.  So important that I teach half-day training sessions for larger companies on creating an environment for accountability to exist.  In all the training sessions that I do on this topic, leaders miss one essential thing to create powerful accountability.  The leader must be accountable first.

If you are leading teams and your style is more of a “do as I say not as I do” approach, accountability will be tough to come by. 

Perhaps you are thinking this isn’t me. Perhaps you have already fessed up.  All of us are guilty of this.  Here are some things to look at for yourself.

You may lack accountability as a leader if you…:

  • Don’t have a role written down for yourself.  You lack clarity on what your most important functions are to lead their team.
  • Lack understanding of your strengths and/or you don’t design your work around what you do best in the form of scheduling.
  • Constantly respond to “crisis” events.
  • Leave projects half-finished.
  • Change your mind frequently as to what the next move for your company is.
  • Say things and then don’t follow through.
  • Get angry at your team members for behaviors that you are also guilty of while justifying your behavior because “you are the boss”.
  • Avoid planning and goal setting.

Does any of this sound familiar?  If any of us are being honest, we all exhibit some of these qualities as leaders at times.  Some do this more than others.

Rather than beat yourself up over what you aren’t doing as a leader, here are some things to work on to help you stay accountable.

  1. Get Some Accountability in Your Life.   It’s not uncommon for me to run into leaders who don’t work with a coach, have a mentor, meet with a therapist or operate in a mastermind.  It doesn’t matter what form that accountability comes in as long as it helps you to see your blind spots.
  2. Create a set of Core Values for Your Company.  There are a lot of successful companies out there that have issues with team culture and follow through.  Many of these companies lack core values.  Creating core values makes it clear to you and the team what the most important behavior is in your organization.  This is a great team exercise as well if you don’t have this in place.
  3. Utilize Agreements.  Agreements create a container that your organization operates within.  Think of them like boundaries (although not always the same).  Agreements create an opportunity for you and your team members to discuss and agree upon (thus the name agreements) for how you will operate at work.  When things break down at work it’s typically because of one of two things, either your team doesn’t understand the request or there are no agreements.  Unaccountable leaders operate from a world of unspoken expectations.  They say things like, “that person should just know that”.  You are responsible, as a leader, to ensure that communication is understood as well as agreed upon.
  4. Be a Stand for the Things that You Hold Dear.  Agreements, goals, and values don’t mean anything if you are unwilling to be a stand for these things in your daily work environment.  Human beings are rebellious.  We love to toe the line and see what we can get away with. A leader will stand for the standards that have been created to give those standards real meaning.
  5. Embrace Confrontation.  Confrontation is a gift but only if we use it to help people and solve problems.  It’s not a gift if we use it for control, guilt, and shame.  Confronting difficult situations can be a powerful way to create accountability when you are able to show your team where they are off track and help them get back into integrity with their work.
  6. Create Measurable Goals.  Your team wants to know what the standard is and how they can achieve the standard.  Without measurable outcomes, this becomes more difficult for team members to assess and they will likely feel confused by what you expect of them.  If you are assuming that people just “know”, well, they don’t.
  7. Be Disciplined.  If you don’t have the discipline to embrace the things above, why would your team embrace them?  The quick answer they won’t and for the ones that do, they likely won’t respect you enough to stick around.  Jordan Peterson had this to say about this topic:

“Can you imagine yourself in 10 years if, instead of avoiding the things you know you should do, you actually did them every single day? That’s powerful.”

Your team is an investment and we make deposits into our team every day whether those deposits are intentional (how we interact) or unintentional (what they see).  If accountability is important, look at this list.  The things listed are easy to do but hard to live.  They require your desire and your discipline to make it happen.  When you actively work towards this end, you start to create influence in a way that invites your team to a higher standard, and they work in an empowered way.

The thing not to miss here is that you have all the power to influence healthy accountability.

Asking Tough Questions

This episode is about having a heart for difficult conversations. We discuss 3 things you can do to foster a heart for this. 

You may be avoiding something difficult right now. Perhaps a conversation with someone in your life?

The benefits of this in the short term is that you fool yourself into believing your relationships are better than they are. In the long term, you don’t move toward your vision as efficiently as you could be.

Your leadership growth is depending on it.

Thriving in Uncertain Times

In times of uncertainty, the world needs your leadership more than ever.

You can’t lead people through uncertainty if you are not clear on your path.

You can’t lead people through uncertainty if you don’t have a plan.

You can’t lead people through uncertainty if you don’t have financial margin to do.

The entire world is playing in a place of scarcity right now. When everyone goes right, this is when you go left.

We are counting on you.

Incentives that Matter

Money is the seemingly easy path to motivating behavior and showing appreciation.

Money is also one of the quickest ways to completely miss the boat on what really makes your team tick.

Brandon Allen spent a decade engaging teams in high pressure situations and learned a lot about what motivates people beyond throwing money at them.

Check it out.

Take Responsibility

Life seems easier when it’s somebody else’s fault. 

Your marriage.

Your work. 

Your president.

Leaders who create influence are leaders who take responsibility for their outcomes. And this responsibly stretches past points most are willing to embrace.

Today’s podcast takes you the through three things to help you be mindful of your role in this process.

Three things that when applied will absolutely change your effectiveness as a leader and and your profitability as an organization

Rules are Lazy Managers

When things go wrong in our business, it’s easy to take a default position of creating rules and regulations in an attempt to ensure the situation doesn’t happen again.

Unfortunately, this approach typically misses the mark and leaves a leader less free. It also kills growth.

This week, you get five things to do instead and two questions to ask yourself this week to create a better approach for you and your team.

Listen in! 

Review of Trillion Dollar Coach

In this episode Brandon dives into the impactful book Trillion Dollar Coach by Bill Campbell. 

Trillion Dollar Coach - Book by Bill Campbell

This book does an incredible job showing the importance and effect that coaching has on the success and culture of a team.

Getting teams to work together is already a difficult challenge. Here Brandon shares the insights from Bill how to make this easier, how to execute more consistently via coaching. 

Great, impact book on this impactful episode. 

The Costs and Benefits of Retaining Employees

high performing team of employees

One of the most rewarding things that you can do in your business is building a high functioning team. 

  • High functioning teams allow you to produce bigger and better results for your customers.
  • High functioning teams create freedom for you as a leader because you know your business is in capable hands.
  • High functioning teams are created through high functioning environments that allow and support team member growth.  Creating this kind of environment feels rewarding as a leader.

Not only is building high functioning teams most rewarding, but it can also be the most challenging.  As a leader, you may find that it’s easier just to move in from an employee who is a below-average performer rather than take the time to figure out what is getting in the employee’s way and creating a plan to address those issues. While there is always a time to move on from an employee, it pays to retain your team for as long as you possibly can.

When to Move On

Before we get into all the benefits and how-tos of employee retention, I will say this, you can keep an employee too long.  There are a few areas where moving on from an employee immediately is necessary.  Instances of theft, harassment, etc. should never be tolerated in a work environment.

Beyond egregious issues, I look for two things to assess whether an employee is worth working with.

  1. Does the employee own their mistakes?  If you have employees that don’t own their mistakes, it’s tough to move forward with that employee because, in their mind, there is nothing that needs to be worked on.
  2. Are they Growing and Improving? Even if the employee’s growth and improvement are slight, there is a benefit to continue working with that employee for as long as that employee demonstrates commitment and progress to getting better.  If they start to flatten out or regress for a period of time, then it may be time to move on.

The Benefits of Employees

As difficult as it is to work with people, there is a lot of value to team building for you. Employees create leverage for your business.  As your business grows, you start to realize how limited you are in terms of time and effort.  You only have so much of either and it becomes clear that help is needed if you are going to continue to grow and progress.  Your time is valuable. At each stage of your business that value increases.

At every stage of your business, it’s time for you, as a leader, to assess what your top value activities are to your business.  As you identify those top value-producing activities, you look at the other activities on your list of things that you are currently doing and start creating a plan to delegate those to other team members. 

What’s difficult about an activity like this is that it requires you to get outside of your comfort zone and embrace new things.  This process also requires you to let go of activities that were previously high-value activities.  When faced with this, it’s easy for you to reject growth and stay in your comfort zone.  Plenty of stagnant leaders do this every year.

In addition to leverage, employees create freedom.  When I first started leading people, my goal was to be important (this wasn’t a conscious goal but was driven by a limiting belief of where my value was).  The problem with being important is that I had my hands in everything my team did.  All decisions and actions ran through me.  There is a level of success that comes from this behavior which makes it so hard to let go of.

 I finally got a clue when my wife asked me on vacation if I worked with a team of babies since they called so much.  That really pissed me off, primarily because it was spot on.  I had not given my team the authority to make decisions on their own and I was the bottleneck to success.  This inhibited my ability to have freedom as a leader.  If you can’t step away from your work environment occasionally and not have it run at a high level, what you are doing is broken.

Lao Tzu said that “a team is best where their aim is finished and their goal fulfilled, the team will say ‘we did it ourselves” This thought created an epiphany for me in how I lead, trained and delegated to my team.  The result was more freedom and less worry about what was going on in the day-to-day work.

Turnover Costs Money

Employee turnover is expensive.  Here’s an employee turnover calculator to assess how much your own turnover costs. Most calculators factor in things like the cost to hire and onboard a new team member as well as what a company potentially loses when a position in the company isn’t filled.  Besides the hard costs of turnover, this impacts the culture and productivity of the entire team.   

Think about this in terms of client/customer retention, it’s more profitable to retain an existing customer than it is to go out and find a new one. The same is true for your employees.

How do You Address Retention Issues as the Leader?

Intentional Hiring

The more intentional you are with your hiring process, the more likely you are going to bring in the kind of people who will thrive in your business.  One of the recurring issues that I see in small business is the complete lack of process that exists in most companies’ hiring.  You know that employees are a necessary driver to growth, yet you handle the process of bringing on new team members casually.  Hiring is one of the most important processes in your business.

One of the first places to start with creating intention is in making sure that you have your Core Values identified.  What are the principles that exist in your business that you never want to compromise on?  One of our Core Values is to “Be Uncomfortable”.  We want team members who are always learning and developing their skills.  We also want them to take ownership of their mistakes and see mistakes as a learning opportunity versus something that needs to be covered up or hidden.  In our hiring process, we ask questions that allow a person to demonstrate that they are willing to operate outside of their comfort zone.  

Having an intentional set of questions that you ask is also important to get the hiring process right.  I see many leaders wing it in an interview.  It’s painful to watch because they never get any real meat from the interview.  Identify how many interviews that you want to do for each position that you are hiring for.  Figure out who will be involved at each step of the way and what do you want to learn about a prospective employee at each step of that process.  Then craft your questions accordingly.

Powerful Cultures

Once you have a candidate identified, the process of assimilating them into the culture of the organization begins. 

Onboarding

The first step in this process is your onboarding process.  How you set the tone for a new team member as a leader will likely predict that trajectory of that team member’s career.  Sit down with an employee and give them a high level of what it’s like to work for your company before they agree to start working there.

This part is so important.  Where you can go wrong with this is in being too much of a cheerleader and making the job sound better than it really is.  Being realistic about the culture and the job is a great way to demonstrate authenticity as well as to paint a clear picture of what’s to come.  This means you talk about what’s good about the culture as well as some things that an employee may find challenging in the work they do for you.

If you do this well, you build trust and manage expectations.  When this is done poorly, it sets the new employee up for disappointment and erodes trust.

Performance Management

Performance management gets overlooked when leaders feel pressed for time.  Investing in your employees is one of the best things that you can do to build a strong culture that creates growth for your business.  It’s one of the high leverage activities that bring the most value to your business. When you make a team member better, that improvement impacts every area of the business that the employee touches.

Simply put, working on improving your employees shows them that you care.

Here are some simple ways to improve your team’s performance:

  1. Regular feedback:  How did your team do today? Good? Not so good?  Did you tell them? Employees want to do a good job and they want to be recognized when they do a good job.  They want to know when they aren’t hitting the mark.
  2. Annual Reviews: Done right, this is a great way to do a state of the union on someone’s career and allow an employee to share with you where they want to go in the coming year to further their career. 
  3. Opportunities for Advancement:  If your job is a dead-end, the retention of employees becomes more difficult. Even if you can’t give them a different title, you can always give an employee more responsibility.
  4. Training: Everyone needs training.  How much training depends on the team member.  Creating space for training demonstrates that you are actively invested in the people on your team.
  5. Growth and Development Opportunities:  Are you providing opportunities for your team to get training and development outside of the four walls of your organization? Putting together a growth plan is another way to expand the capacity of a team member and demonstrates a commitment to your team.
  6. Accountability: This goes hand in hand with feedback.  To create great accountability, first, demonstrate the ability to be accountable.  This means that you are true to your core value and live the things that you talk about as a leader.  Once you create credibility as a leader, creating accountability for others becomes easier.  Don’t be the leader that assumes your team doesn’t want to be accountable. They do.

One of the limiting beliefs that could get in your way of performance management is born out of scarcity.  This quote I see sums it up:

“CFO: What if we train and develop these people and they leave?

CEO: What if we don’t and they stay?”

Setting the right context and creating an environment for nurturing and developing careers is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to your team.

Your Team as an Investment

I spend a lot of time with business owners talking about how to invest their money wisely.  One of the best investments that you can make as a business owner is an investment into the careful selection, development, and growth of your team.  According to the CEO of the container store, it takes 3 good employees to replace a great employee.  Your employee can’t be great for your organization if they don’t stick around.

What would an investment in your team yield for you in terms of growth for the business, the satisfaction of your customers and freedom for you as a business owner outside of your business?

The Only Person You Need to Manage is Yourself

management and accountability

Leaders spend a lot of time talking about how to get their employees to do certain things.

The short answer is you can’t.

You are a mirror; projects that are late, using phones at inappropriate times, being late for work, unkind words to another employee, etc.

You may have checked in on this for yourself and then come to the conclusion that you have the right story that excludes you from what I am talking about.

Listen in for a series a questions to assist you.