Accountability is one of the important parameters for the success of a team. The higher the accountability, the more likely that the team is engaged, productive and result oriented. Accountability is directly proportional to results. If a team member is committed to a manager or leader, then their chances of completing the goal is 95% as they feel more accountable to achieve it.
A few years ago, I was quite fortunate to be part of a sales team, where the leader focused on creating a culture of accountability. All the team members over performed year after year and we received the best team award after performing consistently for two years. The entire team performed with passion, commitment and high engagement to achieve their quotas and bring results.
At the start, the entire team, including the leader, were new. The first 6 months was about knowing the team, process, product, customer and business area; it was all about setting the stage.
As the stage was getting set, the leader made us comfortable in our shoes. He ensured that the team was well connected and focused on our personal aspirations; what we wanted to achieve and what support each of us required to reach those aspirations.
Our team was uniquely aligned –
- We were clear on our goals and why we had to achieve them
- We anticipated challenges, that could be roadblocks for our success
- We took ownership of the timelines
- We focused on actions and alternative solutions
Even though there was alignment, the leader had monthly one to one meetings, which was great for learning and feedback. We got to review what went well and what could have been done better.
So what can leaders or managers do to build accountability in sales teams? There are three areas that they can focus on –
1 . Creating an environment of Care
As a sales leader, show that you care about the team both professionally and personally. If the team members feel that you are playing a prominent role in driving their success and growth, they feel more responsible in contributing to the team and organization.
The above is the right foundation step to set the stage for accountability. This will build personal ownership where all the team members take responsibility to achieve the set goals and they ensure getting the best results.
Leaders can show that they care through actions and clear communication. This will create a great drive in the team to give their 100% even though there are challenges to overcome.
2. Gauge Individual Accountability LEVELS in the Team
The accountability level of every team member is different. It is the responsibility of the leader to identify and bridge any gaps. Take a look at the checklist below and think about how each of your team members’ approach a problem.
- Individual is least aware of the issues that are revolving around their role
- Individual blames others or external factors
- Individual wears a black hat and has more negative points and believes it cannot be done
- Individual feels it is not their responsibility; someone else will take care of it
- Individual accepts the reality and is ready to move forward with a positive mindset
- Individual has identified the issues and is working toward taking actions to resolve them.
- Individual is highly motivated in finding as many alternative solutions as possible
- Individual takes ownership and drives the agenda to succeed
The above are some good indicators to understand if a team member’s accountability is high or low. As a leader, if you have identified a specific team member’s accountability indicator as low, then it is time to have a priority conversation. Spend time raising their awareness of their accountability level through mentoring and coaching.
3. Understand how each team member wants to be held accountable
Empower the team by asking them how they want to be held accountable for achieving their goals. This will enhance personal accountability rather than the leader doing regular follow-ups and/or micromanaging. If your team member is having trouble defining how they wish to be held accountable, then have a one to one outcome based conversation to help them. Along with the above question, you could also ask questions such as, ‘How would you define success?’ or ‘What would you do to achieve the organisation’s goals?’. These questions will also add value. A major advantage with this approach is that team members are intrinsically motivated.
Raising the bar of accountability using the above three focus areas, creates a sense of trust and a strong bond in the team. The team feels confident when they have to take new actions and responsibilities. It builds a sense of belonging in the entire team. Not only did we have healthy competition, but we were quite motivated to achieve the team’s goals. We valued the direction and path the leader or sales manager wanted to take to achieve the organization’s goals.
In summary, some of the actions that sales leaders and team members need to take for high accountability include –
- Focus on the individual’s personal and professional growth.
- Have regular one to one meetings to understand the gaps and provide support through mentoring and coaching.
- Understanding and empowering the team members to achieve their goals.
- Ensure that the equation between ‘Give’ and ‘Take’ is balanced between yourself and the team members.
- Keep communication lines open to check for understanding and deviations.
- Align to the leader’s viewpoint. Reach a ‘zone of oneness’.
- Take ownership. Do not blame others.
- Approach problems with a mindset of finding a solution.
- Accept challenges and find the motivation to achieve them in coherence with the leader.
A combination of the sales team’s viewpoint and the sales leader’s experience leads to higher accountability. It is a journey for both the leader and team members to shift from a “No Awareness” zone to a “High Accountability” zone. When team members become accountable for results and the leader becomes accountable for the team member’s personal and professional growth, then they enter the “Performance Zone”. And in the Performance Zone, the team is highly engaged.