John reached out to me because he had heard we were able to help leaders like him reduce their stress and have better outcomes. John’s problem was that he was growing quickly. While his company had been around for 20 years, in the last 3 years he had tripled the size of his business and felt he could double it again in the next year or two. The challenge was that with this phenomenal growth came considerable stress. John told me that he had started to have sleeping issues, was exhausted from managing the details of his business, and while he thought he had a great team, he wasn’t sure he could trust them to manage all the details.
It is often not recognized as a threat, but unfettered growth can be a business killer if not managed properly. The laid back approach that sometimes works for small businesses, doesn’t work for a business that starts to accumulate employees and customers. Typically we see that when a company has more employees, there are more problems. In John's case this equated to more sleepless nights. Growth and employees don’t need to be the cause of your stress. In order to manage our employees properly we need to understand
Firstly our employees need to be treated as adults. We should give them a job and expect them to do it. That being said, we do want to make sure they are trained and onboarded properly and often this is the starting point where employees fail. As leaders, their failure is due to our inability to clearly define what we want them to do, and how we want them to do it. Clear roles and responsibilities must be the starting point for every individual employee we hire. Failure to have this clarity leads to stress for both leaders and employees.
Secondly, once our team members know what is expected of them. We need to build feedback loops into our daily and weekly processes to ensure that our people are clearly doing what is expected and know that someone is checking. It's fine to ask someone commit to completing a certain task but unless we acknowledge their completion, over time there will be some people who figure if we don’t ask about it we don’t care about it.
The saying “what gets measured gets managed” is appropriate for ensuring accountability when working with our teams. Both individuals and teams will place more emphasis on completion of tasks if there is some measurement of success. When we clearly define what the outcomes should look like, and follow up with measurement against the standards we have set, there is a higher likelihood that we will be successful in getting those results.
When we are tracking and measuring results, we can quickly determine if there are adjustments that need to be made to our processes or our staff. If someone can’t get the job done in the manner that is required, we as leaders must figure out how to either compensate, retrain, or find someone else who can do the job. As stressful as it may seem sometimes replacing or reassigning workers can be what is best for both the employee, and you as the employer.
How do we keep team members accountable? Start with regular meetings where action items are documented. Commitments should be followed up on at the next meeting and questions regarding failure to achieve the commitment need to be forthcoming. Depending on the type of organization, other types of accountability might include remittance of daily or weekly forms, checklists, aps or paperwork that track achievements and document that
processes are followed. In cases of safety, training, followup and communication need to be documented.
In many cases, setting the example as a leader can be humbling and inspirational for team members who then see that if the leader is doing the job they can as well. Additionally clarity about the WHY or the reasoning for our requirement for the task will make a difference. When employees understand the reasons for our processes they become more open to them. Finally when employees are part of the development of processes they typically become more engaged and accountable. If the processes are already developed, review of the process and recommitment often works.
It might be some time before John is able to regain his sleep, however developing systems that ensure accountability and develop his trust in his employees and their ability to get the jobs done on time and to his standards, will help. Having a culture of accountability within your organization, may take time to develop but starting with regular accountability check in meetings can go a long way to developing accountability teams.
Dave Fuller MBA, is an Award Winning Certified Professional Business Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Dave has weekly accountability meetings, email him for an agenda. email@example.com