Sam Kaufman, CEO of On the level constructionBusiness Coach and Podcast Host.
As entrepreneurs, we all have the inevitable “why don’t they just do what I want them to?!” at least a few times thought in our heads. You may have wondered where you went wrong. You may wonder where they went wrong. You may find yourself quite confused about who is actually to blame when a team does not perform according to standards and expectations. I hate to tell you this way, but perhaps as a leader you bear the brunt of the responsibility here.
It’s common for leaders to start growing their teams as a reactive measure of growth. So as sales increase, you start hiring more people to handle the fulfillment of those sales. As fulfillment catches up, you can add a salesperson to increase the company’s ability to support the fulfillment team, keep everyone working, and ensure the company has stable sales and profits. As both things grow, you may need an accounting department to handle your company’s increased need for financial management. See the cycle? You grow. You rent. You grow. You rent.
Where entrepreneurs tend to miss the point is the clarity of accountability for their teams. You can attract people, but have you given them the tools and clarity they need to assess their performance? Here I’ll talk about three specific things you can do to increase the accountability of your teams right now.
1. Introduce key performance indicators (KPI) in all your departments.
KPIs are metrics used to measure, track, and manage a company’s performance. All too often, owners and managers have conversations with team members based on how they feel about an employee’s performance, when what’s really needed is a conversation based on actual performance data. You may even be surprised to learn that the person you feel is underperforming is actually performing at the expected level. Your expected level may in fact be wrong.
Don’t overcomplicate KPIs. Total sales, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory turnover, and inbound leads are all great examples of simple, company-wide, measurable potential KPIs for your business. Now when you have conversations with your team, you can use these metrics to guide the conversation in a way that holds the person accountable and gives you and the employee real-time data to base the conversation on.
2. Create an atmosphere of accountability throughout the company.
Assign an owner and due date for all tasks within the organization. Too often, companies are great at making a to-do list and knowing which department to handle, but miss actually assigning a person to the task. Delegating it to a role and assuming everyone just knows when and what to do isn’t always enough. If you create to-do and task-based items in your team meetings, start by assigning ownership to those items. In my opinion, people can respond very well to the feeling of ownership. Isn’t that one of the reasons why you work as hard as you do your business?
3. Create a performance improvement plan.
An example of this would be as follows. The first occurrence of a problem results in a documented verbal warning explaining what happened. Preferably, the manager will have that conversation with a service mindset and ask, “How can I help prevent this from happening again?”
The second occurrence of a problem can be handled with a written warning. Outline the issue and require the employee to sign the document to confirm that it is correct and indeed happened. The written warning should be followed by an action plan for improvement. This could be three to five bulleted items for the team member to complete in order to continue in the position they are in. The items must be measurable and achievable.
Your goal should be to help and encourage accountability at the same time. Giving clear, direct and measurable action items is a must to drive that home.