You hear people say it all the time “I couldn’t do it without my team”, “I love my team”, “My team is the backbone of our success”.
In fact, you might even be the one saying those things. But are you 100% confident that it’s true – all the time. Do you have unconditional faith in your team’s ability to get things done, and done well?
Well, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, the answer is no. Yes, you may love your team – but 100% unconditional faith, all the time? Probably not – at least probably not if you’re like 90% of the business owners out there. But, I’ll tell you a secret – one thing, one change can move you squarely to the 10% group.
It’s accountability. Both holding others accountable, and being held to account yourself.
You see, consistently holding your team accountable actually grows trust – even when the team member fails to perform. That’s because the elements of accountability create a foundation that your team can count on. They can trust that they know what’s expected of them, they have what they need to do the job, and they know the type of feedback they’ll get from the team leader.
Here’s some things to think about as you build accountability in your organization:
First, hold yourself accountable. If you commit to doing a task, or completing a project in a certain timeframe – do it. Believe me, your team is watching. They can see when you decide to give yourself a break, and turn a firm deadline into an elastic noodle.
And even worse – they know when you’ve committed to do something for them, or their project, and you don’t get it done – or don’t get it done on time.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Sure, we’re running a business or businesses here – we have a million things on our plate, we have to prioritize, we have to triage, we just can’t get to everything for everyone. Well, I’m not saying kill yourself trying to be everything, everywhere for everyone. But, what I am saying is commit carefully. Really think about what you’re saying yes to. Are you really the only person who can do that task? Or maybe you have to be involved, but someone else can do part of it.
Or, maybe you just need to think about timing. When will you have the bandwidth to get this thing done? Listen, if you tell your team member that you’ll have that report for them by Monday – they’re counting on you doing your part by Monday, so they can do their part. And if you don’t do it, or you are late doing it – it holds them up. And damages their trust in you, because clearly you aren’t holding yourself accountable.
“…consistently holding your team accountable actually grows trust – even when the team member fails to perform. That’s because the elements of accountability create a foundation that your team can count on.”
Next, clearly communicate your expectations. You cannot, I repeat, cannot, expect someone to live up to expectations that live only in your head. Unless you (and they) are telepathic, you’re going to need to use your words. Tell them what you expect. Only then can they even have a shot of getting to where you want them to go.
But it doesn’t stop there – they’ll need the tools to do the job, and training, training, training. Because again, they don’t’ know what’s in your head. So if you don’t properly train them on what needs doing, then they aren’t going to be able to do it properly.
And while we’re on the subject of doing it properly – that doesn’t mean exactly like you would do it. Different people are – well, different. Each person will bring their own perspective to what they’re doing – who knows, it might even turn out better. But you have to allow room for that innovation. Don’t micromanage, or criticize just because it’s a new way, or dismiss their opinion out of hand.
So, that’s a nice list of don’ts. But there are some dos. Do follow up. Remember delegating and abdicating are two completely different things. One is a valuable tool, the other is lazy and has no place in leadership. You can’t just say – do this. And then walk off. Be available for questions, and to provide help if needed. No – we don’t need you to micromanage: but we do need you to lead.
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Do follow through. It’s not about what you start, but what you finish. Great leaders are known their ability to commit. To a path, to a vision, to a company, to their team, to whatever task is in front of them. Wear your ability to follow through like a badge of honor, because it is. Not everyone has the ability to follow through – but those who do, accomplish great things. And your team’s trust factor will be off the charts. What, someone who does what she says she’ll do? Unheard of!
A key (though not very pleasant) part of following through, is addressing poor performance right away. Work with that poor performing team member, get them the help, tools and support they need to be successful. And do it with empathy and grace. But, if after all that they continue to underperform, then take immediate action.
Listen, you have to give people a fair shake. And I’m all about second chances. But when it’s done, it’s done. And just leaving someone there, hanging, like a pinned fly, is just cruel. You’re miserable, they’re miserable and the team is miserable…..who do you think has to pick up the slack?
And needless to say, letting them stay and do poor work – well, that’s nowhere near the word ACCOUNTABILITY. Nope, have standards, insist on them, and address team members who don’t or can’t uphold them.
And finally, measure progress and provide consistent feedback. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. That quote is attributed to the famed management guru, Peter Drucker. Well, he got it right. If you don’t or can’t measure it, how do you know how you’re doing – whether or not you’re improving.
Another huge plus to measuring – making something measurable almost forces you to communicate your expectations more clearly.
And once you know how things are going, get in there and provide feedback. Good, bad, neutral – it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as
I think you’ll find that upping the level of accountability will get you to that world class team in no time. And give you the confidence to lead them.