May 20th, 2013

Leaders Leading Change: How to Hold Each Other Accountable to Follow Through

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Leaders Leading Change: How to Hold Each Other Accountable to Follow Through

“To be accountable means that we are willing to be responsible to another person for our behavior and it implies a level of submission to another’s opinions and viewpoints.”  — Wayde Goodall

As a reminder, here is what we have covered so far and what we’ll cover here in our series on Five Essential Elements of an Effective Change Leadership Program:

  1. Crafting a Consistent Change Message
  2. Communicating the Message Frequently
  3. Model the Expected Behavior
  4. Cascade the Change Message and Behaviors Down
  5. Hold Each Other Accountable

Leadership often revolves around a group of people working together and depending on each other to follow through on their respective tasks and responsibilities. Holding yourself accountable is a challenge in and of itself. However, being part of a leadership team often requires you to hold others accountable too!

We want the individual leaders to say that they’re going to be specifically accountable for doing things with their group. To say, “I’m going to hold you accountable. I’m going to ask different questions. I’m going to meet with you every week. I’m going to do things that you may not have seen from me before, but it’s me committing to you.” It’s not just you saying that your leadership team is going to behave differently, because that’s a very different level of accountability. It’s very easy to say “we” are going to do this and then check out. What I’m saying is that as an individual leader, you have to do it.

Conversations, like the abovementioned, involve asking some questions that are going to give me confidence that what you’re doing is driving behavior change in the field. I want evidence. I want to know that this is actually happening. What I want to do is ask you questions that are going to give me really specific examples of what people are doing, why they are doing it, and what results they’re seeing. I think those two things — the commitment to accountability and the understanding of the kinds of conversations they have — are the first two steps to holding your organization accountable.

Leaders know that when they first start asking these questions that require fact-based responses, the managers that report to them may not have the kinds of answers they’re looking for. The leader is taught to allow this to happen a time or two but should hold direct reports accountable for providing this information consistently. We know that if we can change the conversation between leaders and their direct reports, the conversation between the direct reports and first line managers or sales professionals will also change as the direct reports seek to provide real, fact-based evidence of behavior change.

Now, that doesn’t guarantee it’s all going to happen. Generally speaking, what I recommend is to meet with leaders individually, at least on a quarterly basis, if not monthly, and ask them those kinds of questions — hold them accountable. What’s really interesting is the leaders that I talk to, as senior as they are, are extremely receptive to that. They tell me, “Yes. You need to do that because I may not get it right.” So, I’m willing to have this conversation with you on a monthly or quarterly basis where you’re going to hold me accountable for asking the kind of questions I need to ask and getting the kinds of responses I need to get. If I’m not, then what I want is help in breaking through barriers, asking, “Why isn’t this happening? Is it because I’m not doing what I need to do, or is it because there’s something functionally, organizationally, or structurally that’s getting in the way?”

Recap

Let us recap the five essential elements of an effective change leadership program:

  1. Crafting a Consistent Change Message. Align yourself with your initiative’s objectives, internalize the why, and own the change.
  2. Communicating the Message Frequently. Convey the same message so that people hear it from every senior leader, give your organization a message they can lock onto.
  3. Model the Expected Behavior. You’re asking people to change behavior, and your leadership team must set a prime example.
  4. Cascade the Change Message and Behaviors Down. Change the conversation between leaders and direct reports. Watch this take effect and trickle down.
  5. Hold Each Other Accountable. To receive fact-based evidence that supports the changes in your organization, commit to accountability.

Our Application

The interesting thing about our change leadership workshops and processes is that there is a lot of self-reflection. In a typical learning event, you walk away feeling really positive because you learn something new, you practice the skill, and you go out and knock them dead — whether it’s coaching or selling. With change leadership, it is common to experience the opposite. You start to think, “This is not going to be easy. We’ve got a lot of stuff ahead of us, and my role has just gotten a lot harder. I have a lot more work to do …”

We need to know if leaders got the message and if they are going to take action. This is not like a typical learning event and a fun workshop. This is about realizing that there is really hard work to do and the role of the leader in doing that work, reinforcing the investment and the behavior change.


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About The Author: Harry Dunklin

In his current role, Harry Dunklin leads the Sales Enablement Practice at Richardson, a leading global sales performance solutions provider. Richardson’s Sales Enablement Practice utilizes a variety of technologies and methods to assess the sales organization’s ability to deliver against a client’s market promise, and recommend business relevant solutions designed to impact near and long term business objectives.

Harry Dunklin

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