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 his company was growing quickly. While his company had been around for 20 years, the size of the business had tripled in the last three years, and he felt he could double it again in the next year or two.
The challenge was that this phenomenal growth came with considerable stress. John had started to have difficulty sleeping and was exhausted from managing the details of his business. While he thought he had a great team, he wasn’t sure he could trust them to manage all the details.
It’s 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.
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Typically, we see that when a company has more employees, there are more problems. In John’s case, this meant 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 several concepts.
Our employees need to be treated as adults: We should give them a job and expect them to do it.
But we want to make sure they’re trained and onboarded properly, and often this is the starting point for employee failure. Their failure is due to leaders’ inability to clearly define what we want them to do and how we to do it.
Clear responsibilities must be the starting point for every employee we hire. Lack of clarity leads to stress for leaders and employees.
Once our team members know what’s expected of them, we need to build feedback loops into daily and weekly processes to ensure our people are clearly doing what’s expected and know that someone is checking. It’s OK to ask someone to commit to completing a task, but unless we acknowledge their completion, over time some people will figure if we don’t ask about it, we don’t care.
The saying “what gets measured gets managed” is appropriate for ensuring accountability when working with our staff. Individuals and teams will place more emphasis on completing tasks if there’s some measurement of success. When we clearly define what the outcomes should look like and follow up with measurement against the standards we’ve set, we are more likely to get those results.
When we’re tracking and measuring results, we can quickly determine if adjustments are needed to our processes or staff. If someone can’t get the job done in the manner required, leaders must figure out how to compensate, retrain or find someone else who can do the job. As stressful as it may seem, replacing or reassigning workers can be best for the employee and the employer.
How do we keep team members accountable?
Start with regular meetings where action items are documented. Commitments should be followed up at the next meeting and questions need to be asked regarding any failure to achieve the commitment. Depending on the type of organization, accountability might include remittance of daily or weekly forms, checklists, apps or paperwork that track achievements and document that processes are followed. When it comes to safety and training, follow-up and communication need to be documented.
Setting the example as a leader can be humbling and inspirational for team members – if the leader is doing the job, they can as well.
Additionally, clarity about why we require a task will make a difference. When employees understand the reasons for our processes, they become more open to them.
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 work.
It might be some time before John can regain his sleep patterns. But developing systems that ensure accountability, and build his trust in employees and their ability to get jobs done on time and to his standards, will help.
Building a culture of accountability within an organization may take time. But starting with regular accountability meetings can go a long way.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner at Pivotleader Inc. Dave has weekly accountability meetings. Email him for an agenda at firstname.lastname@example.org. For interview requests, click here.
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