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Accountability, it’s what we’re all looking for, from everyone in the organization. The Merriam-Webster definition is “the quality or state of being accountable; especially an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions”. The problem is that in most organizations we don’t coach for accountability. That's mainly due to the fact that our managers/coaches don’t know how to do that. Why you ask? The answer is simple, it’s because we failed to teach them how to coach effectively.

Assuming that you've got a great sales manager in place, the starting point is effective, one on one coaching. I subscribe to a couple of different theories when it comes to coaching. The first is that there has to be a simple method for your sales manager to follow in order to coach for performance effectively. The second is that the same approach likely won’t work for every individual on the team.  You absolutely have to treat each of them fairly and with respect, however, the approach you use with each one of them is probably going to be a bit different. By that I don’t mean that the simple system used to coach effectively changes, I mean that the approach taken by the sales manager must take into account the individual preferences.

The first step for any manager in any department is talking directly with the team to find out what struggles they are facing. Use this opportunity to gather information and resist the urge to refute any of the suggestions on the spot. You want to get information flowing here. What makes their jobs difficult? What could they do better? What could they be provided with to do better? What gets in the way of success for them? Once you’ve gathered this information you need to sit down with each member of the team individually and help them to set their own plan/path to success. You can’t get people to be accountable unless they establish the target themselves. You can give them a gentle nudge to stretch the target but you can’t be the one to set it for them.

My good friend Tony Scutella (www.shiftingmindsets.ca) turned me on to a simple four step one on one coaching process years ago. It’s called GROW and once you get the handle on the process, coaching for accountability becomes much easier. Here are the four steps you should be following:

Goal

What do you want?
  • Agree on a topic for discussion
  • Agree on specific objective of session
  • Set short or long term aim
Ask open ended questions to identify the facts (who, what, where, when).
  • What do you want to achieve long term
  • What does success like? 
  • How much personal control do you have over your goal?
  • What is a short term goal on the way?
  • Is it positive, challenging, attainable?
  • How will you measure it?

Reality

What is really happening now?
  • Invite self –assessment
  • Offer specific examples of feedback
  • Avoid or check assumptions
  • Discard irrelevant history
Ask probing questions: how much, how many, how often, etc.
  • What is happening now?
  • Who is involved (directly & indirectly)?
  • When things are going badly on this issue, what happens to you?
  • What’s holding you back?
  • What’s really going on (intuition)?

Options

What could you do?
  • Cover the full range of options
  • Invite suggestions from the coachee
  • Offer your own suggestions carefully
  • Ensure choices re made
Start broad and then narrow the focus.
  • What have you thought of so far
  • What other options do you have?
  • What else could you do?
  • If you had more time,, what could you try?
  • If you had total autonomy, what could you do?
  • If you had a wise old friend who knew you and your situation will, what advice would they give you?

Wrap-up

What will you do?
  • Commit to action
  • Identify possible obstacles
  • Make steps specific and define timing
  • Agree on required support
Follow their interest, use their words.
  • What are you going to do?
  • How are you going to do this?
  • How will you ensure it happens?
  • What could stop you taking this step?
  • Rate your willingness to take on this agreed action on a scale of 1-10
Your coaching style will depend on your behavioural traits. It may be that you have to modify some of your innate, natural behavioural temperaments to find success here. A recent study by the McQuaig Institute found that 85% of managers have similar behavioural traits. Those traits impact how we approach coaching. For most of us, when asked a question the response is to provide an answer. That’s not coaching in any sense of the word. Here’s your challenge for the next little while. When a member of your team asks you a question respond by asking them an open ended question. “What have you done so far?” “Tell me what your approach has been.” The next time someone asks you a question during a sales meeting open the question up to the team. “Does anyone have any ideas how we could approach this?” I think that you’ll be amazed by the results. 

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