“You can count on me.”
I have said (or at least implied) these words countless times throughout my life, and I bet you have too. We say it when we want to give someone else the assurance that we will be there for them, we have their back, and we will do whatever we said we’d do. It is a way of conveying our personal accountability, which is foundational to any lasting, meaningful relationship.
Let’s talk about accountability
First of all, it’s not a one-way street; it is reciprocal. I am accountable to my family, to my teammates at work, to my community, etc., and they are all accountable to me. For example, my wife counts on me to be an equal partner in the execution of success responsibilities in managing our household – housekeeping, financial support, parenting, etc. – and we each hold the other accountable to this. Upholding both ends of the bargain is critical to the relationship’s strength, to its ability to last in difficult times. The opposite is also true – letting the other down in a relationship hurts both parties and often erodes the strength of the relationship.
Leadership and Accountability
Good leaders deliver on their commitments to their team, and in turn, their teammates deliver on their roles and responsibilities. To me this is a universal truth. How can anyone expect someone else to deliver if they themselves make commitments they don’t keep? Leaders (and I mean all leaders – parents, church leaders, politicians, managers, etc.) have to recognize that they are in a special role and that setting the bar for accountability to their team is what gives them license to hold their teammates accountable to their roles and responsibilities.
In addition to “walking the talk,” how do we establish accountability in a work environment? I believe it begins with conversation and collaboration on a set of expectations. What are the expectations that you have of your team members, your supervisors, and in the case of a Customer Success Manager (CSM), your customers? Expectations need to be established early, they need to be mutually understood and agreed upon, and each party needs to commit to delivering on them. That commitment is what makes the relationship work.
Why is it important to foster accountability as a leader? Mutual accountability makes teams more effective. I hold my team members accountable to:
- advance initiatives;
- be able to assess the efficacy of processes; and
- improve performance.
I am sure that there are many more examples you can think of as well, and they all boil down to the simple act of making and keeping commitments.
A good formula for holding team members accountable is to:
- Know their responsibilities and skillsets;
- Gather their input/buy-in when assigning and managing tasks;
- Provide ongoing coaching;
- Track progress; and
- Make appropriate course corrections when things get off track.
(Course corrections can take on many forms – everything from realignment of expectations to reassignment of team members.)
Work and Accountability
Once both parties have embraced a set of expectations – goals, objectives, plans – they need to translate these expectations into the actual work to be done to make the expectations a reality. After all, it is in the actual workstreams where the rubber meets the road. Managing work can be tricky if everyone involved doesn’t understand and commit to what is expected of them, however, once expectations are mutually understood it becomes possible to create an environment where each person can essentially hold themselves accountable to their own commitments. This also makes the role of the team leader one of staying focused on higher level goals and keeping their team mindful of their commitments.
Accountability and Customers
I mentioned earlier that accountability also applies in a customer relationship, and you may have wondered how. Just like all relationships, in a B2B setting the relationship between a CSM and their assigned customers is one that only thrives in an environment of accountability. A CSM enters the customer relationship with much expected of them, and likewise, the customer must show commitment to their own success.
Success isn’t achieved IN SPITE OF the customer’s actions, it is achieved BECAUSE OF the customer’s actions. Moreover, if a Customer Success team leader wants to hold their CSMs accountable for consistently delivering excellent experiences they need to focus on the actual workstreams for making those experiences a reality, including providing the necessary tools. Some of these basic tools include:
- Mutual understanding between the CSM and customer of the customer journey;
- A culture where accountability is valued and seen as integral to success; and
- A technology that helps manage the workstreams involved and not only keeps a CSM mindful of what lies ahead, but also enables the CSM to set and manage appropriate expectations with their customers.
Accountability isn’t a bad word. It’s not something to fear. It is foundational to an effective relationship – any relationship. People in all aspects of our lives are counting on us, and not only do we need to deliver, we also need to hold them accountable to deliver on their end of the bargain, too. You can count on me – it’s a good motto to live by.
Steve Ehrlich, COO of Bolstra and accountability partner extraordinaire.