Holding your people accountable is simple. In working with sales leaders around the world, accountability isn’t easy because those leaders possess one of three self-limiting beliefs that cripple their accountability program.
First, and most common, is a need for approval. To paraphrase one of David Sandler’s rules, “Leadership is not a place to get your emotional needs met.” A high need for approval cripples accountability in your organization because your mindset is that “accountability” equals “micromanagement.” With that mindset, you’ll allow your behavior, weekly accountability meetings, to slip when “something comes up” for you or your employees because you don’t want to “micromanage.” Often we find a leader’s need to be liked is greater than their need to succeed. So, if being liked is the priority and not leading their team to greater success, we find that leaders will make “being liked” the priority each day versus holding their team accountable to achieving success.
Properly implemented, accountability is the opposite of micromanagement. Because you and each of your direct reports agreed in advance what your behavior expectations of them would be when you would hold your accountability meetings, what you would cover in those meetings and the consequences of not performing there’s no, as Sandler called it, “mutual mystification.”
When you have an accountability conversation with a direct report, you are merely holding up a mirror to show them that they are the ones with imperfections because they didn’t keep their word. By focusing the conversation on your direct report instead of yourself, you can minimize your need for approval.
Second, is fear of rejection. When you fear rejection, you’re unlikely to have the upfront conversations described above because you are conflict adverse. Your mindset with a fear of rejection is “we’re good,” which translates to “mediocre is okay.” Because you’re conflict adverse, you’re likely to have surface level accountability conversations. “How’s it going?” “Okay.” “How can I help you.” “I’m good.” “Good meeting. Let’s get coffee.” Those types of conversations give your direct reports implicit approval to do what they think is best whether is supports your organization or not.
Fear of rejection has deep roots in our psyche. Pulling out those roots requires a lot of self-reflection, journaling is a great tool for that, coaching and a mindset shift from accountability conversations being about “conflict” to being about “supporting” your direct reports.
Third, is low self-worth. This belief typically manifests as enabling bad fit employees by accepting excuses for their poor behavior. For example, “I didn’t get my calls in this week, but I haven’t been feeling well.” “That’s okay. I know you tried hard.” Because you don’t value yourself your mindset ends up in “why bother” land as in “Why to bother with accountability? It doesn’t make a difference.” Any attempts at holding your direct reports accountable are likely to be false starts that leave you unsatisfied, with a reinforced low self-worth belief, and your direct reports frustrated.
Rising out of a low self-worth belief starts with you being accountable to yourself for a short period, typically two weeks to one month. During that time set small, achievable goals that you celebrate achieving and which build momentum to pull up your self-worth and give you the courage to hold others accountable.
Holding your direct reports accountable is simple, but it’s terribly difficult if your beliefs cripple your mindset and behaviors before you start.