You can hope that every member of your team feels a sense of accountability and responsibility for their work, but “Hope is Not a Strategy” and ultimately, humans will always make their own choices.
Because accountability is personal and isn’t something that can be forced, building an environment of accountability in your sales team is essentially beyond your control. What great sales leaders can do, however, is create an environment in which individual choices are aligned with corporate mission values.
Here are some tactics for doing that:
Clearly define your organization’s purpose and articulate it to everyone on the team
Why does your organization exist? What do you do that leads your clients to choose to write you checks rather than your competitors?
Of course, your corporate purpose can (and should) go beyond making money, but in our capitalistic society, validation for a business comes when someone raises a hand, says they find value in what you provide, and chooses to buy from you. At The Brooks Group, for example, it is our purpose (or mission) to transform sales organizations for CEOs and leaders of the Sales, HR, and Learning functions so that it becomes easier for their customers to buy.
When you establish a purpose that is in service of your customer, you can better communicate how each individual’s actions collectively contribute to the larger picture. If well-crafted, this statement gives clear direction to everyone in an organization about who they work for: your customer. In short, it helps drive a sales culture.
TIP: A great tool for creating a purpose statement is to complete the following sentence: We (what do you uniquely do?) for (the unique part of the marketplace that you serve) so that (what unique difference do you make?). Here’s an example for a manufacturer of safety equipment for the construction industry: “We build and distribute equipment that protects lives for contractors so that the people who build our world are always safe.”
Understand your purpose as a leader
As a leader, do your personal motivators drive you to fulfill your organization’s purpose? There’s a difference between knowing which decisions to make and actually making those decisions innately, not just because it’s your job, but also because doing so fulfills you.
As is true with your individual team members, if you’re not doing what you’re driven to do, it will eventually lead to burnout. Knowing what your purpose is, and whether it’s in line with the company’s purpose, is a prerequisite for leading others towards a sense of personal accountability.
TIP: A great way to determine your personal purpose is to consider what you do that causes you to completely lose track of time. What appears on your calendar that you truly look forward to? What’s on your schedule that you wouldn’t ever consider moving or missing? This is a good start to determining your professional purpose.
Seek to understand individual motivation and align it with your company’s purpose
Part of being a great leader is the ability to adapt to those you are leading, and learning what motivates the individuals on your team.
It’s important to understand what every individual wants to accomplish, and – if it’s possible – work to align their personal goals and aspirations with the purpose you have articulated. There certainly are traditional mechanisms to increase accountability (setting expectations, deadlines, incentives, etc.) but these blanket approaches must be tailored to individual team member needs.
It’s a sales leader’s responsibility to understand the motivations as well as the limitations of the people on their team, and align those through a job description that includes an individual purpose along with the larger purpose statement. If there is not alignment between the two, you must coach or decide if someone is not the right fit.
When people are performing in roles they are naturally motivated for, a culture of accountability will flourish.
TIP: Host a meeting with your team and ask them, “Beyond earning a commission, why do you work here?”
Make sure individual and team decisions are aligned with established core values
You need to have a clearly defined set of core values to determine if everyone is operating towards the company purpose. These shouldn’t be written down and put on a shelf, nor should they become a giant policy manual. Instead, they ought to be a set of guideposts that clearly and simply indicate what’s appropriate in your organization (or on your team). They tell everyone whether they’re behaving in an acceptable way.
In other words, they’re the spoken – or often unspoken – nonnegotiable rules by which successful people in any group operate. Whether values are written or not, when they’re violated, there are serious consequences, which can even be termination. The healthiest organizations capture them, publish, share, and use them as boundaries that are well communicated.
It's important that anyone on your team can look at value statements and say I "Always," "Sometimes," or "Rarely" do that. Here are a few examples:
- Communication: "Maintains appropriate information flow up and down organization."
- Curiosity: "Acknowledges that, 'I don't have all of the answers.'"
- Excellence: "Offers his/her best on all projects."
It’s the sales leader’s responsibility to make sure followers understand the values of the company, where boundary lines lie, and how they will be held accountable to them.
TIP: Consider rating members of your team using these value statements, asking them to rate themselves, and using that as a basis of a one-to-one discussion about their personal organizational effectiveness.