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You are accountable.
The more we are involved in sales teams’ performance issues, the more conversations we have on accountability.
Accountability is common in sales teams’ top values list. When brainstorming with the teams on what values reflect their culture and summarize what they stand up for, accountability is nowhere to be seen. While it is anchored in the minds of most employees through management relentless communication, it never ever makes it to the top 5 core values.
Accountability may have won employees’ mind – the reptilian one – but surely not their heart.
Why is that?
Accountability is not a “we” word :
Accountability may be defined as the willingness to call one’s direct reports or one’s peers on performance or behavioral issues. It may be a powerful driver to comply with rules and standards, as far as they are clear and indisputable. It may generate great results and trigger the appropriate conversation when deadlines or numbers are missed.
However, the reason why accountability does not appear in the top 10 values of sales executives or sales reps ranking is simple: nobody likes it. This is not the kind of value that generates motivation or enthusiasm. It is rather linked to pressure, blame and punishment. And honestly, seasoned salespeople do not need to be “held accountable”. They don’t need to be micromanaged and to be reminded what kind of standard they should live up to.
There is no accountability in D.Coyle “Culture code”. There is no accountability in T.Rath & B.Conchie “Strengths based leadership”
Manners make the manager :
Let’s agree accountability does not suck. You can positively trigger change in any organization through accountability. It depends how you handle it.
Let’s take the two examples consisting of “holding someone accountable”. These are real life example from our coaching sessions. They both relate to a simple answer given to a sales leader asking his manager for support after several attempts to fix things in his team:
Example 1: the newly appointed leader took office one month ago. During his transition, instead of asking his direct reports feedback about what they had on their plate and what the absolute priorities should be, he has made assumptions, created a tense environment, given orders and made abrupt decisions. Questions were asked in a way that demonstrated he had already the answer, and the best one. To a genuine request for help, this simple answer “you are accountable “ just conveyed the following message: “You’d better figure it out, and quickly”.
Example 2: the new appointed leader took office two weeks ago. During his transition he has implemented an open communication. He has drafted a plan to reach the ambitious goals set the CEO but has made it clear the details should be discussed with his leadership teams, even he would make the final call. To a similar request for help, this simple answer was given to the sales leader “You will figure it out “. This conveyed a completely different message: “ You are in charge”. Accountable, not guilty.
- Accountability is driven through and after building safety and trust.
- Your talents don’t need to be hold accountable and to be told they are.
Does accountability really suck?
Accountability may have different meanings depending on your culture and the leadership skills of people who love holding others accountable.
On one hand, it may translate into fear and a toxic culture. While performance may not suffer immediately, you don’t create an environment for long term and outstanding success by forcing people to be accountable. Peak performance is certainly not the sum and individual accountability. Nor is discipline the surest route to outstanding performance.
On the other hand, by giving employees the power to work independently, and holding themselves nonetheless accountable, the end result is a genuine and authentic accountability that is positive for everyone. Then, accountability comes as a natural byproduct of a collective effort and a collective responsibility for success and failure. Not a red flag to point out individual shortcomings or achievements. Not a red flag to point out individual shortcomings or achievements.
If your team has become allergic to accountability, you may want to replace it by another key value: choose responsibility. Execution and commitment are implicit, and you will boost your corporate culture with two underlying values:
- Team cohesiveness
- Belief in individuals’ business and personal ethics
Think. Good selling.
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