What does accountability look like in your team?
Do you regularly check in with your agents and hold them accountable for their actions? For many, accountability is an awkward term, fraught with ideas of punishment or shaming. However, this does not need to be the case. If you promote a strong culture of accountability, you just may find that you have a higher-performing team.
A bonus effect of holding team members accountable is that it can actually lead to more business coming in. How? Check it out…
Accountability is often viewed in a negative light, seen as brandishing The Big Stick and being about punitive actions. What accountability should really be about in any successful business is simply making team members answerable for achieving a goal or task.
Yes, accountability for mistakes comes into it, but an effective business environment allows team members to own their mistakes without feeling that they are likely to be punished at any minute.
Workplaces that brandish The Big Stick are often filled with negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and finger-pointing. In this type of environment, employees may be afraid to speak up or try new things.
Effective accountability in your real estate firm should see you regularly checking in with agents and ensuring that they have done what is expected of them. If they haven’t, dig deeper to find out whether it is due to any disciplinary-type issues, or if you need to have more systems in place to support them.
In research from Harvard Business Review, it was found that on top performing teams, “peers immediately and respectfully confront one another when problems arise. Not only does this drive greater innovation, trust, and productivity, but also it frees the boss from being the playground monitor”.
Note the keywords “immediately” and “respectfully”. The Big Stick is not waived around by high performing teams – this would be counter-productive and undermine any trust that has been built.
Where you have a high-performing, accountable team, the manager doesn’t have to make all the suggestions, as team members can trust they are in an environment open to their ideas. This is another bonus effect of accountability – it can put you in a better position to allow more autonomy for your employees, because you can trust that they understand exactly what is expected of them.
In most workplaces, your team members are closer to customers and everyday operations, so they are often better placed to notice issues and suggest ideas.
With more responsibility, the team member is able to have more ownership for their decisions and for their role within the business. It becomes a matter of pride to see that the business is doing well and the customers are happy. It also means that you are able to hold them accountable to a higher degree and hopefully see higher outputs as a result.
Even if a customer has had a poor experience with your company, it is not a foregone conclusion that you will lose their business. For most of us, whether or not we continue to do business after a bad experience depends on how well the company handled the situation.
In your own day to day dealings with businesses, how do you like to be treated if something isn’t right? In some places, you will get bounced around from team member to manager because no one has the authority to resolve your issue – extremely frustrating, especially if you thought it was a simple problem! Worse is when you hear excuses as to why no one can help you and how you’ll just have to deal with it.
Integrity, accountability and ownership should all be a heavy part of your company vocabulary if it is your mission to have highly satisfied customers. This means taking ownership when things go wrong, apologizing and doing what you can to rectify the situation.
In the eyes of the customer, if your business and the team members who represent it can display these high levels of integrity, then you will be held in a position of trust and respect. Customers who respect you tend to tell their friends about their experiences with your business, and you can’t get much better than new customers who have been directly referred!
There’s a classic model that has been taught for years in business schools called theAccountability Ladder. Those on step one at the bottom have no accountability and are totally unaware of their failures, whereas those on the highest rung accept total responsibility. Team members who are at this level are innovative and find new ways to delight their customers.
What happens when a customer is delighted? Statistics show that they will tell 4 – 6 other people about their experience…
Accountable employees are conditioned to own anything that they do and to want more out of it as a result. The roll-on effect is that overall performance is improved. Team members are efficient, productive and confident in their own abilities.
Where any failures occur, an accountable employee who is nurtured in a high-performing team environment will quickly take ownership, do what they can to rectify the situation and take it as a learning experience for the future.
It’s also worth noting that, if employees are owning issues that come up, the manager’s time is freed up to be working on rather than in the business. If you’re not out fighting fires you can be working on that next growth strategy!
The end result of of improving employee performance is that the customer experience is improved too, driving more business in your direction.
Most of us have had an experience working in a negative environment at some point. This is the type of place where accountability was synonymous with The Big Stick instead of motivating us to achieve goals and perform well in our roles.
What is the end result of that? Team members who are doing only what they have to in order to “get by” and who aren’t particularly motivated to either be at work or raise any new ideas.
To top that off, work environments like this tend to have higher employee turnover, which has a negative impact on customer satisfaction. Business2Community reported that companies are losing around three out of every ten customer-facing agents hired each year, meaning that a significant number lack any real experience with their customers.
As with any relationship, a business relationship with a customer is built over time and by team members having a high understanding of customer needs. Create a negative environment, and that relationship doesn’t even have a chance to develop.
On the other hand, where team members are held accountable and feel valued, they tend to be much more highly motivated to perform well, think innovatively and remain for a longer period with the company. So an environment of positive accountability boosts the likelihood that strong customer relationships will be developed.
If you’d like to instill a culture of accountability in your team members, one of the first things you will need to do is define exactly what that looks like and present it to them. Keep in mind that many have been exposed to accountability as a negative term, with connotations of The Big Stick.
How you communicate expectations and what happens in the event of any failures in particular, will set the tone for how your team members perform going forward.
In any case, holding employees accountable and giving them more responsibility will lead to a better experience for your customers, and happy customers drive more business!