Many leaders want to know how to hold a team accountable. Often they will look at team members and wonder why they aren’t accountable. In order to build accountability in a team, you need two things, the tools and the environment.
In this part one of two, we discuss the tools required to build accountability in your team.
How the best leaders hold people accountable (part 1 of 2)
Episode 72 – The Growth Whisperers
The Growth Whisperers is a weekly podcast hosted by Brad Giles and Kevin Lawrence two advisors to mid-market businesses, one Australian, one Canadian, who each work with CEOs and Leadership Teams across the world with a mission to build enduring, great companies. Each weekly episode covers interesting situations and questions from the world of strategic planning, leadership development, talent and hiring in high growth entrepreneurial companies where real results matter.
How the best leaders hold people accountable (part 1 of 2)
Brad Giles 00:13
Welcome to the growth Whisperer is where everything that we talk about is building enduring great companies, companies that you love that you want to keep companies that matter to you, that you’re living your passion inside. I’m Brad Giles. And as always, today, I’m joined by Kevin Lawrence, my co host, Kevin, how are you doing today? My friend?
Kevin Lawrence 00:38
Doing great. I’m always feel like I’m doing great. Just my second time recording my new home studio here. And I got half the stuff working. I’ll get the other half working over the next couple weeks. I’m just sitting here making some adjustments. Yeah, really good. Looking forward to the show. I love this conversation on accountability. It’s quite controversially a no bread. Not a lot of people love doing it yet. It’s very effective. I think it separates the best managers for some of the weakest ones, in terms of how they’re able to do it. So I’m really excited to dig into this today.
Brad Giles 01:11
Mm hmm. Awesome. That’s our topic. This is Episode One of two how the best leaders hold people accountable. But before we start that, as always, what’s your word or phrase of the day?
Kevin Lawrence 01:23
Yeah, my word today is grateful. I’m just grateful for all the tools we have at our disposal. Yeah, we’re just thinking what even the basic technology that we haven’t been able to record zoom. And, you know, you and I doing this virtually, you know, we haven’t seen each other in a couple years now. Interestingly, yeah. And yet we’re doing great work together. so grateful for the that we get to collaborate and do this. And I’m grateful that technology enables it. So yeah, I’ll be my word. Today, I’m feeling pretty grateful.
Brad Giles 01:51
Awesome. I’ve got a phrase, what you say build on in preparation for this one, Uncle Kevin. You can’t be a great leader. If you’re a technical expert, instead, you need to coach. So what am I talking about there? What I’m saying is that some people are technical experts. And they think that’s the way to manage instead, they need to transition to becoming more of a coach to help the people that reported him to be to be high performers or to be accountable, and to achieve great results
Kevin Lawrence 02:30
are shifting from technical experts or coach for the right people?
Brad Giles 02:33
Yep, yeah, yeah, many leaders get stuck thinking they need to be the technical expert. Whereas in In fact, what we’re trying to encourage is that they themselves become more of a coach, I help the people to succeed.
Kevin Lawrence 02:47
Yes, the technical expertise actually can get in the way of leading people at some point, because you know the answer, you give the answer, and you approach it very differently than a coach, or a leader by the I like the idea of shifting into coach Awesome. Well, let’s dig into this thing around accountability today, in today’s show is how the best leaders hold people accountable. And this is part one of two, we’ll have another one next week as well.
And, you know, in your mind, Brad, what do you think to you? What is accountability?
Kevin Lawrence 03:20
What is it like? How would you define it? It’s a
Brad Giles 03:24
countability is, I guess, one person, not a group, but one person who has ownership over something, and delivers on their commitments. So accountability versus responsibility, many people can be responsible for something but only one person can be accountable for something. So it’s a person who we can count on to deliver what they say they’re going to do, or what is expected.
Kevin Lawrence 03:59
Thinking back in the olden days when people use horses and carriages to deliver goods. And it was like at the end, it was the counting on what was delivered. The delivery person would deliver 48 crates of canned goods, and then they would count on that and they would count it so being able to count on what the person’s liberty or accountability. There’s another interesting model for accountability in a book called the AWS principle, oh Zed as the Wizard of Oz. And they basically have a models called see it on it, solve it do it is above the line, or below the line, you ignore stuff and you make excuses. above the line, you see something and you take accountability to make it happen for making it happen. And that’s the kind of overall accountability that’s not necessarily project focus, but it’s basically taking charge and you know, it’s it’s, um, it’s like a piece of trash on the ground. It’s not in some anyone’s job description to pick it up. But an accountable person would either pick it up, or get someone to pick it up, they see it, and then they take charge of it. So it’s a, it’s an interesting model for a deeper view on accountability and helping to create a culture of accountability, which we’ll be talking about in Episode Two more. That model really, really helps. But in for these terms, it’s, we’re talking about holding people accountable or holding them to account. And what this episode is about is this we’re really talking about there’s elements required to create accountability. And what happens for most people, is they don’t have enough elements yet. So if it was that shipment of canned goods, on the old horse and carriage, it just says, you know, it’s like the ship, the shipment just is we’re gonna send you some canned goods portal, we’re gonna send you some stuff. When in reality, it’s eight cases of canned goods. And these are Roma tomatoes from Italy. And they’re 48 ounce cans. Right? Well, you have all those things that you understand. And by the way, it’ll be delivered by whatever day. And it’s, it’s easier to count when you know what the heck you’re supposed to count versus conceptual. So well, we got to dig into there’s no the key elements required to create a calendar. And there are specific things that most leaders Miss on. And that’s what we’re going to dig into.
Brad Giles 06:32
Yeah, so this week, we’re talking about the elements that are required to create accountability. And the next week, we’re going to talk about building the environment that accountability, so you need the elements, and then you need the environment to get the accountability results that you’re looking for. So I guess we’ve got a saying in Australia, which is the fish rots from the head down, okay. And applying that as a metaphor to a leadership team, like the leader, the CEO, or whoever it is, needs to be an example of best practice when it comes to accountability. You can’t hide behind a veil and expect everyone else to not hide behind the veil layer, you need to be accountability, you need to be accountable part of me.
Kevin Lawrence 07:22
Yes. Yeah, and some CEOs don’t like that, and some won’t start it themselves. And so they’re not a great example. And that’s not the best way. And we all know, Brad, you and I, both we have, you know, many, many CEOs that work with us one on one, to help them get clear on their goals, and to be accountable to help them to achieve those, which is a great thing to do. It’s hard to do yourself, I mean, you and I are accountable to each other on things, I’ve got a coach that I’m accountable to on my goals, or aren’t accountable to them. Yeah. And it’s, it’s very easy to let your own stuff slip. And if you’re not achieving the things you set out to achieve, you’re setting a bad example. So basically, start by looking in the mirror, and look at what you need to do for yourself. That’s the that’s the key
Brad Giles 08:04
point. And that’s so interesting, you know, so often you and I have the good fortune to meet with CEOs, who can often times many of them might say something like, Look, what I’m looking for is someone to hold me accountable. That’s why I want to get a coach, I want someone to hold me accountable. And we can’t stand over them and yell at them every time they don’t do the things that they’re, they say that
Kevin Lawrence 08:37
we could, but that wouldn’t be what we’d want to do and not good use of their time. And it’s not effective. It’s it doesn’t work. They because they would eventually tell us to bugger off exactly as your people do. But sometimes they don’t tell you to bugger off. And then they just bugger off themselves and either don’t do worker or they leave it’s Yeah, you know, accountability is not yelling and screaming at people. The most advanced accountability, and that’s what a lot of the tools that we’ll share with you is the most advanced accountability. People set their own goals which you agree to, if they manage themselves and track their progress on a daily and weekly basis. And then they report on how they did. He asked the most advanced accountability, and then they give themselves a report card of how they did and how they can do better next time. That’s how you grow leaders. And it’s the most advanced versions and you don’t even have to say a lot, but and that it gets more into the environment about next week. But in order to do
Brad Giles 09:36
that, you got to have the right tools. The elements, which is what we’re talking about today is begin with yourself, you know that you’ve got to find a way to use this, these tools and this environment you’ve got to create the culture of accountability and even to a degree peer accountability. So really first then is the clear goal. So it’s got to be, it’s got to be clear in what we’re going to be trying to achieve. And so this was actually last week’s episode around smart, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and time based goals. So refer back to Episode 71, if you want to learn more about that, but the first is that you’ve got to be clear on the priorities or goals of the company and the individual in their department. And also things like the KPIs or the targets for a department. So working in and on the business, you’ve got to be very specific around, you could have a budget you could have, you could have simply sales goals, and sell all different ways to be very clear on what you’re trying to achieve. That is a part of the foundation of accountability. Because if you don’t have clarity on what you’re trying to achieve, very specifically, it’s going to be very, very hard to do any of the other things. Yeah.
Kevin Lawrence 11:10
So we kind of break that down into those clear goals. No projects are things that they’re going to deliver on. And then secondly, clear metrics, measures, numbers, yeah. And then we look at those numbers. And we have lots of different phrases that we use, but that’s just basically measuring how well you you or your team are performing. And, and, you know, operationally these would, if we’re take sales, it would be, you know, number of cold calls that were made number of meetings that were held number of referrals that were received, no kind of lights, all the activity stuff. And if this is things like in production, it’s going to be number of widgets produced per hour, the error rate, the overtime rate, you know, and any safety incidents, the the the labor cost per widget, or per hour, and the material cost and the material waste, and all kinds of operational stuff that just tells you how we’re running it. And how healthy a part of the business is. So when you kind of have those two things, goals or projects to advance a move ahead, and you call that on the business, and then the operational metrics to tell you how you’re performing, to kind of measure the, you know, the, in the business, those two things, they set you up pretty well. And that sounds kind of like a basic, and you would think everyone has this and they don’t, not to the point where you should be able to really sit down so okay. Show me your show. Show me your scorecard that tells us that you’re doing a great or tells you you’re doing a great job. And whether it’s this week or this month, this quarter. Yeah, and an average person should pull out somewhere between two and, you know, six or eight numbers that measure those operational metrics or, you know, some call them KPIs. But KPIs has about three different meetings. So operational metrics, and then it should have a list of goals. And if they if everyone in your team has that, like congratulations. That’s basically the gold standard for managing a team. Everyone’s got clear goals, smart goals, and everyone’s got those numbers that indicate the their department or their role that they’re doing a good job.
Brad Giles 13:25
That is an interesting statement, one of the really simple questions around Have you established this foundation of accountability is, Does every body in the organization know whether they’ve had a good day or week? Does everyone in the organization know whether they’ve had a good day or week now not just because, you know, they enjoyed the sports that they watched, but in their role? Yes, they know. And if they don’t, well, there is the opportunity to work on to begin to build an environment or one of the elements that create the environment of accountability.
Kevin Lawrence 14:05
Right and, and sports teams, most sports have this, right, they have things like they know, the practices you need to be at and you know, the drills that you need to run and the times you need to get or the past success that you need to get we have a lot of that stuff. And sometimes we just kind of expect people to show up and work hard and make it happen. And we don’t often set them up to win here with us. And again, everything I look at accountability, the highest form of accountability is self accountability. So everything we look at is trying to get people to be able to self manage, and then the manager gets involved as needed. So I always think about it from the shoes of the person doing the work versus you know, big brother. So backing up. So we’ve got clear goals, check see last week’s episode, and then clear metrics or KPIs that indicate performance in their role and how they’re doing the on an ongoing basis. The next one is the behavior Expect expectations. And at the end of the day, you know, how you show up and how you treat people and work with people is pretty important. And, you know, there might be expectations around, you know, behavior about showing up on time, there might be expectations shouldn’t have to be about weather, it could be around swearing, it could be about, you know, positivity, or negativity or complaining or gossiping, it could be around all kinds of things. Most of the companies we work with set really clear core values that are tangible behaviors, not a list of what makes a nice person. But it’s expectations of Well, here’s, here’s how we work together. And here’s what we do. And here’s what we won’t accept. And so that we’ve set very clear expectations, so people can tell whether they’re consistent with it or not,
Brad Giles 15:59
let’s go back to your sports analogy before if you turned up late to practice, or if you missed practice, yes, there would be a consequence, and you would be very, you would understand very well, when you join that team, every time we turn up to at this time to practice and you must be here, or else you might get cut from the team. And so that clarity around behavioral expectations equally, you know, it could be the way that you deal with a meteor if it’s a famous team, or it could be us what to do and what not to do. So translating that into a company, understanding the behavioral expectations, as well as having clear metrics and KPIs. And as well as having clear goals that are measurable. This is the elements that build a foundation of accountability. If you don’t have behavioral expectations that are very clear, it’s very, very hard to hold people accountable to them.
Kevin Lawrence 17:03
Yeah. And it’s hard for them to know what’s okay and what’s not. Okay. And that’s the piece that in most companies, it’s all way too squishy, the goals are squishy, the numbers may or may not being tracked or not enough of the right ones. And when it comes to behaviors, in some cases, almost anything goes and what ends up happening is the senior leaders don’t like it because it becomes a lot of work to manage. There’s a lot of chaos. Yeah. And then secondly, the people themselves don’t like it, because it’s, it’s this is a lot of weird stuff happening and finger pointing. And so what we often go into companies, we these are, these aren’t rocket science. But these are the basic things that we start by straightening out. Yeah. And it starts to make a big difference. And some people rise up, some people fall on our face, and some people are great. And then or the end, they stay great, all kinds of things happen. But you’re putting, you’re taking it from a more chaotic environment to something that’s clear and tangible. And we just see how it rolls in generally, lots of things go in the right direction. And from a leader, a leader or CEO perspective, they feel much more in control of it. Because they’re just not letting that you know, basically not letting the children run wild in house.
Brad Giles 18:15
And then on to carrots and sticks. You must have clarity about consequences and rewards. One of the really interesting questions that I’ve asked many, many leadership teams about a role is why should we fire that person? And, and people shuffle around in their seats, and people kind of look out the window and people are a little bit uncomfortable. But what why we should be super, super, super clear on why is it that we should fire insert any role sales manager? They excuse me, if they only achieve 40% of their budget? For three years, should we fire them? Okay, what about 60%? What about 80%? Like, we want to be super clear on where is the point at which we let them go? And where is the point at which we go up and give them a big hug.
Kevin Lawrence 19:13
And even when you so it’s important to know at some point what’s not going to be okay. And what happens in a lot of companies that get kind of get mediocre and slip into what we call the mediocre middle. For a lot of them, what ends up happening is that they start to tolerate these things. Yeah. And they don’t do that. And by the way, why don’t people deal with underperformers and people that need to be managed more tightly and then potentially let go?
Brad Giles 19:40
I would say there’s two reasons because exactly what we’re talking about here, we’re not clear or be if we are clear. I don’t like doing it.
Kevin Lawrence 19:49
Yes. So I was talking with a friend girl for dinner last night and talking with them. I knew her friend and she was talking about this in her company and she took over a new team In that team, there was someone that is her right hand and was toxic beyond toxic. her predecessor hadn’t dealt with this toxic person and the predecessor before that hadn’t dealt with this toxic person. And they basically said, Well, well, why did you do it? Why were you able to get the person out? And no one else did she said, because I did the work. And she goes, and it was a lot of work. It was because they had, they had a strong HR department, there was a lot of policies and a lot of things that had to get done a lot of paperwork, writing the person up, uncomfortable conversations, etc, etc, etc. And the thing is, people cringed, she said that people would say that, they would want to come in and come into her office after this individual had left. Like, they didn’t even want to come into that part of the business until a person was gone, because they were so toxic. But the point is, it’s a lot of work. And it’s not fun. It’s kind of like shoveling the manure out of the barn. It’s, it’s, it’s not pleasurable for most people yet. It’s got to be done. And that’s, that’s why a lot of people won’t deal with it. Nevermind the fact that it’s, it’s the conversations themselves can be excruciating.
Brad Giles 21:11
But that’s, like I said, I think I’ve said to you before, that’s when you’ve got to as a manager, you’ve got to use the stick as a third element. Like, I’m not the stick, it’s the result. That’s the stick. I like you, Kevin. But we’ve agreed that you’re going to achieve 100 widgets. And, and you don’t, and you’ve currently done 40. Correct, like,
Kevin Lawrence 21:38
I call it that the basically, they you set them, you set up an environment where they either win by themselves with your support, or they fire themselves. Yeah, so we had an executive that I’d worked with for about five years, he had a new manager who wanted to fire him, and I and I, I was a little attached to this guy, I really liked them, work for them shoulder to shoulder for a long time. And I just said, Hey, if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna fire this guy, we got to make sure we do the process, right? Because there was no documentation, nothing was being done, right. And because of the role I had in this particular firm, I demanded it, and the CEO support we got it. So I sat in a meeting with this executive and the person. And there was no, no clear goals. Everything was mushy. So I said, Look, I said to his manager, I said, you can’t fire him, because you’re saying he doesn’t achieve his goals. But it’s not it’s not clear enough. I said, between you tighten this up to exactly what the person will achieve in the next 90 days. We find this out. We had another meeting, we set out they literally exactly super smart goals for the next 90 days, what 90 days come around, we’re sitting face to face again. And I was for a number of reasons I was helping to sort the situation out. And we sat there. And I talked to the manager beforehand. He’s like, Yeah, he didn’t even get close at all. I said, Okay, interesting opinion. So in the meeting, we went through the goals and went through them one by one, and what percentage and at the end of the day, he had achieved about 40% of what he needed to do. So I was able to look at him and say, Hey, you realize you probably didn’t earn the opportunity to keep your job? He’s like, Yeah, I know. So it wasn’t nice, but it was clean. Because crystal clear goals. It wasn’t I don’t like you. You didn’t, you got the he had the opportunity to set your goals and to produce and you didn’t produce. So they gave him another 30 days. But then he had to go, which was sad. I didn’t I but he wasn’t able to produce and I didn’t trust the executive 100%. That’s why I went through the process. But that’s what it’s about. And it was a very professional conversation.
Brad Giles 23:47
I want to I love that I want to talk about very quickly a chap called Ron sage. He’s a CEO of a company called Panera Bread you may have heard of, if you’re North American based, not so much in Australia, very, very successful. They’ve got about 3000 locations. So this is his perspective on this particular subject. He says I didn’t understand that a leader can’t put up with employees baloney. If someone isn’t producing a leader has a right and an obligation to fire them. Eventually, I learned that servant leadership isn’t about being nice at all costs. It’s about being helpful at all costs. A leader should be as brutally honest as possible. And you can do this in a kind and loving way. let the chips fall where they may. And remember honesty is helpful. When you tell someone why they’re doing a bad job. You’re transferring the responsibility. Maybe they improve, maybe they leave whatever the outcome, they own it. I just love that perspective. And it’s so relevant. Great comments. Yeah, when it comes to these elements that we’re talking about here, like we set the framework and the environment and the elements there. We’re talking about, and then we transfer the responsibility on to the individual. And then we coach them, we coach them to succeed, but they own the outcome.
Kevin Lawrence 25:11
Yes, and the onus of performance and reporting performance sits on their shoulders, we’re here to help facilitate them clarifying what they need to achieve. troubleshooting things along the way. But the but the pressure to perform stays with them.
Brad Giles 25:28
And then let’s move on to the last one, which is transparent.
Kevin Lawrence 25:30
But let’s not forget, let’s not forget the carrot. That’s the stick. But the carrot is celebrated and acknowledging success. Right? You need tools for recognition and acknowledgement, and different people thrive on different things. Now work with someone that really thrives on recognition. So when they do something amazing, I make sure it’s recognized in front of lots of other people. Yeah, some others don’t like that so much, but what is the carrot? What is the reward or the positive reinforcement? You know, sometimes it can be applause. Sometimes it can be, you know, just literally getting recognized or asking them how they did it. But what is the positive reinforcement for doing well, and, and thinking, thinking about that part of the system? And it could be a financial incentive. You know, financial incentives can kind of get messy, sometimes very easily. But what is positive reinforcement?
Brad Giles 26:30
Sometimes, many people will do amazing and remarkable things and will achieve amazing outcomes. Only knowing that the leader will say, Kevin, like you did a really good job there. Thank you. So very much like that, that simple sentence can transform people’s input and what they achieve,
Kevin Lawrence 26:55
again, and some people need to be all that, but that’s a whole, you know, everyone, knowing your people, what is it, they need, what gets the best out of them, everyone’s got a slightly different thing. And knowing that really helps, so go on, Brad, you want to know more you wanted to cover? Go ahead.
Brad Giles 27:10
Okay, so let’s get on to the last one transparent reporting, one source of truth to see the results. So So you said before, it’s about the manager holding the person accountable, or the individual self holding someone accountable. But I push back and say to you, there is another higher level, a higher wisdom, if you like a higher level. And that is pure accountability. So if we can create an environment where everyone knows what everyone has to achieve, and those people both support and hold one another accountable in that environment, beyond the manager, like that’s the gold standard that is amazing to achieve.
Kevin Lawrence 27:56
It is and that’s part of the environmental, I’ll make a note of that. We’ll talk about that new environment.
Brad Giles 28:01
Yeah. So we want people to know what others need to achieve. Because if you think about the whole organization, as let’s say, a series of cogs or elements, we want to know if marketing isn’t performing their job, that’s going to have a flow on effect, to sales, to operations, to counting, all of those things are going to really matter. So we want it to be transparent. So we know when someone isn’t performing, so that other team members can support them, if needed.
Kevin Lawrence 28:30
And it just creates an environment of openness versus not having a little secrets. And no, I’m actually a big believer in 316 being transparent. Yeah, or at least people coming on a tight team. It can be transparent, the full reporting. But even on a minimum level, coming back to saying here’s what the strengths weren’t, here’s what I need to work on. Yeah. So the idea here, and really kind of the essence
of accountability is there’s a bunch of basic tools to have if things
Kevin Lawrence 29:03
were to be used or not things element elements, elements, basic elements to have in place to make accountability happen. If you don’t have them, it’s kind of hard. Otherwise, you got to resort to yelling and screaming and kicking and punching. And that’s horrible. So the elements we’ve talked about, really are starting with yourself and making sure you are leading by example and are accountable to the goals that matter most to you. And obviously the ones that relate to the company. And then from there, clear goals, the projects that you’re going to achieve on a regular basis things you’re going to move ahead. As we talked about last episode, clear metrics, the numbers that indicate you and your team are operating well. behavioral expectations are you know the expectations of how we conduct ourselves and how we treat other people and work with other people and work with our clients. And then carrots and sticks to consequence. As rewards, you know, when good things happen, what happens? And how do we reinforce the good stuff. And then when things aren’t achieved, this is what separates, you know, the serious, highly effective leaders from the mediocre is, you know, making sure the consequences are real, making sure the tension is felt, or in some cases that they lose opportunities, responsibilities, or even their employment. And then transparency just to having an all transparent one makes it easier to manage. But then it grits that leverage of that peer pressure or that pure accountability.
Brad Giles 30:36
Kevin Lawrence 30:37
What kind of Final Thoughts would you add onto this, Brad, any kind of your overall things you’d say?
Brad Giles 30:42
accountability is complex. And many leaders think I want to buy a piece of software that I can plug in, and everything will work and now and then, once I start paying it, it’ll, it’ll all be just like a magical machine that spits out $100 bills where everyone will be accountable, but you need the elements. And you need the environment to create the accountability. And it’s not hard, you just got to have the right mindset and I go back to what age sort of making something.
Kevin Lawrence 31:14
Okay, so awesome. Thanks for listening. This has been another episode of the growth whispers with Brad and Kevin on Kevin. He’s Brad for the video version, go to youtube.com and just look up the growth whispers for Brad evolution partners com.au and for Kevin Lawrence and co.com. Keep thinking about accountability and maybe how you can take it up a bit of a notch with your yourself and your team. Have a great week and hope you join us next week as well. Have a good one.
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