I grew up with a close group of friends in in the cold winterland of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in the 1980s. Playing and watching hockey was our life blood. At that time, the young Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club would make a statement by overthrowing the heavily favored New York Islanders, kicking off their own dynasty to win five Stanley Cups over the next decade.
The Edmonton Oilers Coach Glen Sather (now President of the New York Rangers) was known for being a true mentor and father figure to a bunch of young kids away from their home and family. He provided great leadership for his team and in 1984 they would take the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.
There are many leadership stories and lessons for sales leaders about Coach Sather and the Edmonton Oilers I love, however one that always sticks with me: After a string of poor play, the coach brought a mirror into the dressing room and asked each player to look at themselves before starting the next game. He asked them to call out what they personally would be accountable for — a powerful image. They won their next game and a new culture of accountability was born.
Often a new sales leader underestimates how hard it can be to build a culture. You might think that since you are now the sales manager or the boss, your team should just follow. But it doesn’t work that way. People don’t follow a title, they follow a leader.
Here are five ideas tested and proven at Salesforce that will help you build a culture of accountability and lead your team to victory.
1. Know your strengths and get buy-in
Take your team through the Gallup’s Strength Finder exercise, so they can identify their top five strengths and how to leverage them; it will be a gift they will always remember. Completing this exercise eight years ago built great awareness of where I should focus as a professional. Many sales reps that have worked under me shared it was a turning point in their career. As a sales manager, you need to lead by example, so do it yourself first and share from experience.
Find out what people’s personal and professional goals are. Guide them on how to build SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-based, with Timeline) goals.You’ll likely use your own discovery skills in order to find out what they value. Smart Goals Origin
2. Ask for permission
Once everyone on your sales team has identified the goals they value both in work and in life, ask them if you can help them achieve their goals by holding them accountable.
I’ll ask, “If we agree that these are the most important goals YOU personally want to achieve, do I have permission to hold you accountable to doing the big and little things it’s going to take in order to get there?” If the answer is no, I go back to step 1 and confirm their goals. If the exercise is done well, I have never had anyone say no.
It’s much easier to ask for accountability when it’s been negotiated.
3. Lead by example
You can’t ask anyone to do anything you have not already done. This is one of the fatal mistakes many first-time sales managers make.
Model the way and show what good looks like. You’ll earn the right to inspect and verify on how they are following the coaching.
Your team is always watching you. They are watching how accountable you are in what you will say you will do. If your team accountability starts to falter the first thing to do is look in the mirror.
4. Have uncomfortable conversations
Tackling the elephant in the room is always your clearest path to success. New sales managers often gloss over or avoid the difficult conversations. It’s understandable: they are uncomfortable. Emotions are in play and you are dealing with people’s career. However, I firmly believe you are not doing people any favors if you let sales performance slide or leave what should be addressed unsaid.
Have you ever been in a conversation with your sales manager or in a room of people where you can feel the tension due to an emotional issue not being addressed? The elephant is in the room and won’t walk out until you admit it’s there.
Whether selling to a customer or addressing an employee, your greatest success comes from addressing what is uncomfortable head on. You might not be good at it the first time, but committing to meet these types of conversations head on will build this leader muscle in no time.
5. Say thank you
We vastly underestimate the impact of two simple words: “Thank you.” No matter where we are in the year, I schedule time to write thank you notes to my team for their effort, passion and contribution. They could be working anywhere or for anyone; I’m grateful they are working with me.
To sum it up, spend the first 30 days as a leader investing in your people and truly look to make a difference in their lives. Do this poorly and you will spend the next 11 months wishing you could do your first month over. Do this correctly and you will spend the next 11 months co-building an amazing relationship and path that can lead to a dynasty.
The kick in the pants you need. Sign-up for a better start to your work day.