Sales leaders often ask, “How do I create a culture of accountability?” Before we can tackle this question, we must understand what their current culture looks like, how they got where they are today, and what needs to change to make them more successful
Wouldn’t it be great if you would only hire individuals with the maturity level and professionalism to be accountable to themselves and their employer? This quality is not easy to recognize during the interview process, but it becomes apparent shortly after an employee is hired and trained. On the flip side, as business owners or leaders, perhaps you are uncomfortable holding others accountable and subsequently create a lackadaisical atmosphere or environment of complacency. This establishes a sales culture lacking growth, development, and success.
Let’s look at three key areas of accountability
1. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
First, individuals need a clear, unambiguous understanding of their responsibilities. They need to know the things for which they are accountable, and they must accept the position and the challenge.
Each employee should have a written job description that includes key responsibilities, tactical goals, and a measurement for success. They also must understand that they are part of a team—a team with its own overarching goals and responsibilities—working toward a common company vision. Lacking this team perspective creates a culture of employees who act like independent contractors. Their actions will be self-serving, appearing as though they’re working for themselves or the customer, rather than for the company or a team.
Look closely at your job descriptions, the roles of your employees, and their understanding of their specific responsibilities. If any of these seem unclear, it is time to address it.
2. Continuous feedback and communications
Once your employees’ roles and responsibilities are established, you should provide a communication and management system that has open, honest, constructive, and positive feedback. Provide this input and feedback on a continuous, predictable basis through regular one-on-one sessions and team meetings.
If you set goals and expectations and don’t follow up and keep score, your employees will start to drift. They’ll lose focus and begin to feel that they’re not important: that no one’s watching, or worse, not caring about their performance. Too often crucial conversations are avoided, or communication does not happen in a timely manner. It appears, then, that there are no consequences for not doing their job or failing to meet expectations.
If you’re not attentive, seem disengaged, or don’t provide positive and constructive feedback, your employees will revert to following their own objectives and assessing themselves against their own benchmarks, not yours. Asking people to create their own framework of goals and objectives can, in some cases, be empowering; they feel as if they’re being treated with respect, as professionals who don’t need hand-holding. However, everyone needs feedback. No matter how self-directed or self-motivated, an employee will find it difficult to remain so if they don’t know how their boss feels or if it seems that the boss does not care.
What happens if someone is not performing to the level that meets your expectations? Your employee must understand that there are real, concrete consequences when he or she isn’t performing to the predetermined, agreed-upon role, responsibilities, and expectations. These consequences should be clearly communicated and documented so that there’s no confusion or misunderstanding. You should use very specific language such as, “If you don’t meet this specific requirement by this specific date you will face this specific consequence.” This may sound harsh, but establishing real consequences for lack of performance demonstrates discipline and conveys the reality and the specific cause-and-effect of their actions or lack thereof. Consequences must be fair, reasonable, and consistent among all employees. A culture of accountability can easily be undermined if some employees are getting away with poor performance while others are not.
If you believe that your corporate culture lacks accountability, it is never too late to make the necessary changes. It will require some determined work around the above ideas. Don’t give up on those employees that don’t seem to be accountable for their actions or don’t care. We should look to ourselves as managers and leaders to start creating a stronger culture of accountability.
Conversely, if you have created a culture of accountability but still have employees that are not complying and performing, then consider the old adage, “If you can’t change your people, change your people.” When people understand the expectations, are motivated for high performance, and assume responsibility for their success as well as their own, you’ll see the difference. Amazing things will happen when accountability becomes a genuine characteristic of your performance culture.
Krista's Corner Blog