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Accountability as an agency leader

Demanding accountability from your team also means being accountable to them.

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We often get asked by agency owners and executives about how they can get their team members to improve their performance. They often frame it in terms of “being more accountable.”

The reality is that accountability is a two-way street. As a manager, you need to be accountable to your team members, too.

Listen in to learn how.

Transcript

Chip Griffin 

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich 

And I’m Gini Dietrich, and,

Chip Griffin 

and we, at long last have this episode underway. Jenny has been having a bit of a tough time getting going this morning

Gini Dietrich 

saying her name I can’t even say my name. I guess what? I got it up there. Geez. Yes.

Chip Griffin 

For some reason you thought your name was incredibly funny. I don’t I don’t think your name is that funny. So

Gini Dietrich 

it’s not that funny. I just, yeah, I’m having a time right now.

Chip Griffin 

Well, it’s probably because we’re going to talk about accounting today, right?

Gini Dietrich 

Oh, yeah. Let’s talk about accounting.

Chip Griffin 

So I have my notes accounting, is that I have run out.

Gini Dietrich 

That’s, I think you’re meant accountable or accountable.

Chip Griffin 

Oh, so that’s different. That’s not the same. So see, I thought we’re talking about p&l. And so I have my calculator all here. And my, my printing tape and you know, whatever. No. All right.

So accountability.

Chip Griffin 

We are accountable to our listeners, or really weren’t Yeah, apparently. Yeah, we just

Gini Dietrich 

kind of lost this. We’re not gonna have any listeners.

Chip Griffin 

Well, the good news is we don’t have any to begin with. So going from zero to zero is actually maintaining the status quo. And we always tell people if in 2020, you hold your ground.

Gini Dietrich 

At least five listeners. I know that I know of at least five,

Chip Griffin 

at least five. All right, well, does that does that count me when I listened to 30 seconds of it, just to make sure that it recorded correctly are now

Oh, wow. So now we have six

Chip Griffin 

now? Well, yes. I don’t listen to the thing all the way through. I really don’t want to listen again. Jenny,

Gini Dietrich 

I know. I wouldn’t want to listen to me more than once either.

Chip Griffin 

Now listening to myself. That’s a whole nother story. I love listening to myself, boy

in.

Chip Griffin 

When I get bored, I just play my own live streams on recording just to see,

Gini Dietrich 

to put yourself to sleep.

Chip Griffin 

No to learn. Sometimes I forget all the wisdom that I’ve espoused.

Gini Dietrich 

Well, you’re really on a roll today.

You know, I am. I am. You’ve inspired me, I’m getting

Gini Dietrich 

you out of that office with your head. As big as it is.

Chip Griffin 

Well, funny story, you know that my child’s pediatrician was very concerned about the size of his head when he was very young, and was going to send him some tests to make sure that it was okay. And then I showed up to one visit. And she walked into the room and literally took one look at me and said not worried about his head anymore. Mike, love your bedside manner, Doc.

Gini Dietrich 

So was he like in the 100th? percentile for head shaved head size?

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. Well, he’s in the hundredth percentile for everything size wise. I mean, he’s Six, five now. So. But yeah,

Gini Dietrich 

he walked into the room. And she was like, yep, I’m good.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. I mean, she was literally planning to send him for test to make sure that there wasn’t something growing inside out to be so big that you know, age two or whatever. One look at me, she was no longer worried. Well, she might have been worried, but just not thought about it. Yeah.

Gini Dietrich 

Wow. Well, that’s that’s a nice compliment from the pediatrician.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, you know, a lot of times, alright, well, I think we’ve given the audience enough amusement for the day. And now we need to scold them, we are here to shake our fingers at you audience members, because a lot of you complained to us about your teams. And you ask us, how can you make your teams more accountable? How can you get them to perform better? And so we’re here to tell you, it’s not their fault, it’s yours. So their

Gini Dietrich 

origins are the monster over? That’s an option

Chip Griffin 

that that is an option I, I generally recommend against that. Now, I’ve had days where I felt like doing that, but then you sort of start to think about it logically and realize that’s probably not the best approach for all sorts of reasons.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, I guess. Maybe. I mean, I’m having a day. So instead of my way today,

yeah. Well, thank God, I don’t work for you. No kidding.

Chip Griffin 

More importantly, thankfully, I’m not one of your kids, teachers. So anywho

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, that’s our Yeah.

Chip Griffin 

All right. So So in all seriousness, though, so accountability. It needs to be a two way street. And I think that’s, that’s really what we want to talk about today. The importance as a boss of holding yourself accountable to your team just as much as you’re asking them to be accountable to you and to the business.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s interesting, because as I think back at some of the best bosses that I had, and some of the best leaders that I you know, I really looked up to, and they had attributes like, doing the work alongside you. And, you know, I had one bus, I would walk in, I would get to the office early, and my my cubicle was right across from her office, and she saunter in about 10, after nine every day, even though we’re supposed to be there at 810, after nine every day, she’d walk in, and she put her stuff down, and she gets some magazines or the newspaper out, put her feet up on the desk, and she’d read. And I remember, yeah, I’m like, 20 something going. First of all, I’ve been here for two hours, I don’t saunter in late I, like it’s the it was the worst kind of role model, right? And then she’d come out and asked me to do something, and I’d be like, screw you, I’m not doing that for you. When there’s another person over here, who is working alongside me and mentoring me, and showing me what to do. And asking me to do things, I’m always going to put her stuff first, because you’re, you’re a terrible role model. And so I think about it from that perspective of what, you know, what did I respect and role models and that that are mentors. And that was one of the things was they were willing to work alongside me and actually mentor and coach and help me grow?

Chip Griffin 

Yep. Yeah, I mean, leadership, by example, is absolutely critical, your employees will tend to mirror your behavior. So if you are appearing to be lazy and slacking off, they’re more likely to if you appear to mistreat your subordinates than your middle managers are likely to do the same thing because they’re taking great use from you. Right, you know, so I think it’s very important that you demonstrate the work ethic that you want to see from people. Now you have to be careful that you don’t carry this overboard, because sometimes you’ll have a high performer who just wants to outdo you. And so you, you want to be careful that you don’t get into an arms race, you know, with that ambitious high performer where, you know, all of a sudden, neither one of you ever leaves the office just to try to get in. Yeah, but the other thing that’s important in leadership, by example, is that you should never ask an employee to do something that you yourself are not willing to do. It doesn’t mean that you should also be doing it. But for example, I’ve I’ve been in situations where the boss has said, Well, I don’t answer the phone. Why the heck not. Now, I mean, these days, it’s not as big a deal. But 20 years ago, when you know, the phone was ringing off the hook, and just about every business, you know, the boss has to be willing to pick up the phone, right? You don’t just sit there and let it ring because it’s not your job, because that then flows down to other people. So lead by example. That’s the first part lead

Gini Dietrich 

example. And I really like the so this is actually a very hard lesson that I had to learn because I had a business coach several years ago. And he was great for me, because he would not take my he took no excuses. But he did an evaluation of my team. And it came back that I expected them to work 24 seven, I didn’t expect them to work 24 seven, I didn’t I was like, That’s ridiculous. Why would they say that. And what we discovered is it was because I, I did, I worked 24 seven. And because of that, even though I was saying to you to them, I don’t expect that, that my actions were proving differently. And I remember him saying to me, he worked for Bank of America, he was he was a bigwig there. And he said, one of the things I was never done at five o’clock ever. But one of the things that I did is at, you know, five, after five, I would make a show of packing all my stuff up, putting on my coat, you know, getting everything in my briefcase, turning my lights off and leaving, he said what I ended up doing is I’d go to the second floor where there was a shared conference room, and I’d set up shop in there, but nobody knew that he was there. And he could continue working, get stuff done. But everybody knew assumed he had left. And so then they felt safe leaving as well. And I thought that was a that story has always resonated with me from an accountability standpoint, because I think accountability falls on both sides is the what what do you expect? Kind of what kind of behavior you expect? And what are you demonstrating? That’s different from what you expect?

Chip Griffin 

Right? Right. And it you know, and obviously, these days, where most people are not in offices, it’s, you know, you don’t have to play the charades quite as much. But it does come down to things like email, and, you know, yeah, you know, not sending email at all hours. And at the same time, you know, being responsive. So, you know, you want to make sure that, you know, you’re not appearing like you’re sleeping in until noon every day because you never respond to a slack messenger email before. Right? So, even if you really are sleeping till noon, you know, maybe, maybe wake up briefly at, you know, 915 or so send a couple of replies and go back to sleep. You know, there are ways to handle them. Yeah, you can schedule them and but there there are ways to make yourself. I mean, even even in an office environment, you know, there are ways where, as an owner, you can still take the flexibility to perhaps you know, not be in the office the normal hours but not not do it in such a way that it rubs the employees faces in it right? It’s better not to be in the office, maybe make it seem like you’re out at a meeting or something as opposed to, you know, coming in putting your feet up on the desk and reading which that’s probably about the worst approach you can take either as an employee or anything. It was terrible. Yeah, that’s not terrible. That’s not good. We don’t like that.

Gini Dietrich 

And I will say that even Though as part of our jobs, especially as communicators, it is to read by carry that all the way through. And when I would see employees sitting at their desk reading, I would, I would, I would just, it was not good for me. And I had to come to terms with that personally, but that that was a trigger for me because of that boss. So, yeah, I mean, if she was expecting more out of me, she was not getting more out of me, just because I was being a stubborn little shit, and not doing what she wanted, because she wasn’t demonstrating that she was willing to do what I needed to help grow my career.

Chip Griffin 

Right. Well, and, you know, I think, I think one of the challenges too, that a lot of new managers in particular have is that, you know, if they look at their team, and they see the team is not performing up to par, they sort of the, they feel like they need to turn into the drill sergeant and just say, you know, more, more more, you know, give me 10, you know, oh, that didn’t work. Well, you know, you know, now you’re gonna run 20 laps, or, you know, sort of the, you see the same thing out of out of new sports coaches, right, you know, they Yeah, they, they tend to skew in that direction, the more authoritarian approach, when in reality, you know, I think a key part of accountability, as a boss, manager, owner, whatever is that, that you need to see yourself as someone who is breaking down the obstacles for your team. So So instead of seeing your team as the enemy, and the, you know, the, the group that you’re trying to move, look on the other side of your team and figure out, you know, what’s in their way, what can you do to sort of be their blocking back to use an American football term to, you know, to clear a path for them, you know, and that may be more training, it may be taking dumb stuff off their plates that stopped productive use of their time, it may mean increasing the size of the team, it may mean, you know, working with clients to set better expectations, there’s so many different things that it could be but but it’s your job as the owner, boss or manager to figure out what those things are, and break those down, rather than breaking your team down.

Gini Dietrich 

Well, and we talked in last week’s episode about tools and systems and software processes to help you do some of that. And it may very well be that there isn’t a process or that you have expectations in your head that you haven’t articulated out loud, so that people know what they are, what process they’re supposed to follow. And what you know, we we are big, huge fans of CO schedule here. But we had one employee a couple of years ago who hated it. And she wouldn’t do her job because she couldn’t figure out co schedule. And that frustrated me. I’m gonna be honest. But then I realized that it was just because she couldn’t figure out how to use it. And so we we got her some trainings and professional development on it. And then she became one of the biggest fans of using it. But yeah, it was pretty stressful there for a little bit, because I was like, it’s not hard. It’s a calendar just updated.

Chip Griffin 

Ready? Well, as always, a lot of this comes from work, a lot of this comes back to communication, right? Because part of being accountable is making sure that you have those open lines of communication so that your team can express their concerns or frustrations. Or that you can pick them up just because you’re having those conversations. But it also from a communication standpoint, it means that you need to let the team in on not just what your expectations are, but also, you know, perhaps helping to explain why your expectations are, what they are. Now, this doesn’t mean, you know, this doesn’t mean that you’ve got a democracy now you should let the team decide what’s going to happen. And you’re, you’re still the boss, you still get to make a final decision. Right? But having that kind of a conversation where you say, you know, look, you know, we need to be, you know, at, you know, 80% billable hours, because, you know, that’s how we hit the profit margins, which is how we pay you, which is how you get your bonuses, you know, so if you if you walk them through the logic behind things that can often help. And it may also help them say, well, but here’s the flaw in your reasoning, sir knows, you may actually change your mind, you know, you may not, but if you haven’t it, and you haven’t been accountable enough to have that conversation, you never have the opportunity to decide whether to act upon an additional data point.

Gini Dietrich 

You know, I we’ve talked about this before, and you make fun of me about it. But I go back to this a lot where all of us who have who have had at some point small children who asked the question, why, constantly, why, why, why. And I will ask my small child to do something in her first response, no matter what is why. Oh, my gosh, she was

Chip Griffin 

infuriating. It is

Gini Dietrich 

infuriating. But when you think about it from the perspective of an employee, giving them the rationalization and the understanding of why I think is really valuable, because then they go, Oh, you’re not just bossing me around. You’re there’s actually a reason for it. So I think, to your point, showing them the reasons that you’re doing these things and why it’s what your expectations are and what the outcome is, is extraordinarily helpful. Well, they continue to ask why then you can I get a little frustrated. But

Chip Griffin 

well, if they, um, if they ask why about the exact same thing? But, you know, it’s I think that, and even with kids, it’s actually valuable to give them those answers because kids are learning, right? I mean, that’s Yeah, that’s absolutely the whole nature of growing up. And hopefully, employees are doing the same. Hopefully, we’re doing the same as leaders, right, you need to constantly be learning and evolving. And if you if you, if you ever reach a point where you think you have all the answers, you know, you probably get out of whatever it is that you’re doing. Right, right. Yeah, that you don’t I guarantee it. And I’m constantly re evaluating my own recommendations to clients, of course, you know, that sort of thing. Because you just gather additional information, you see what works, what doesn’t? Or maybe, you know, someone shares a better way of doing something. So you Yeah, well, look, hey, you know, that’s a better mousetrap that’s gonna buy that one. Yeah. Or that trap in your case, but

Gini Dietrich 

I have them controlled, they are under control. Rats are under control. They might be altered. But no, that’s that’s one way to do it. The same business coach that I mentioned earlier, he would during coaching sessions, he would say to me, Well, what do you think? And it infuriated me, because I’d be like, the reason I’m asking you is because I don’t know, but he would never give me the answer. And I’ve noticed in my own leadership, and in my parenting, I do that too. Or, you know, she’ll say, Well, why? And I’ll say, Why do you think? And then I, you know, for my seven year old that helps her think through and create critical thinking skills, right. But for my team, it helps them go, Oh, well, I don’t know. And then they start to think about it from a different perspective. And you can you can steer that conversation, of course. But my first question is, well, what do you think? or Why do you think and then they they stop always and go, huh? I don’t know. And it is infuriating, because sometimes you’re like, I don’t know, just give me the answer. Right. But I think it helps for that. You know, why I can’t get my employees to do more, it creates that accountability, because now they understand why it is and what their role is getting that result?

Chip Griffin 

Yep. Yeah. And it’s sometimes you just have to change your expectations, too. Right? I think we’ve talked about recently as well. I mean, you’re never gonna find team members who work as long as hard as well. Right? And all that as you do. That’s just it’s not, they are different employees are different from owners. So sometimes you do have to take a look at that and say, you know, the problem isn’t, isn’t with the team. It’s, it’s with what I’m expecting of the team. You know, but if you if you really aren’t getting, what is reasonable to expect from them, then it’s, it really is, you need to be the one who’s then asking why, right? So you have to be open to the employees asking why but if you’re not seeing what you want, then then ask them why? And keep probing because chances are the first answer to why is not the true answer. Almost always. Yeah, the first answer is the diplomatic one, the one where they’re, they’re most likely not to offend you, and, and all that. But you know, if you if you probe and dig deeper, you will ultimately get to what the actual problem is. And if you know what the real challenge is, you know, then you can come up with a much better solution. And that’s how you ultimately get better performance. It’s not by, you know, putting in, you know, new quotas for performance, or, you know, putting in arbitrary, you know, guidelines for, you know, the amount of hours you have to spend on certain things, or, and those are, those are all normal behavior. So, if you’ve done that, you know, don’t be ashamed, who, you know, we’ve all done that, at one point or another, where we just insist that this is, this task should take no more than two hours to do don’t spend a minute more than Well, that’s, that’s fantastic, until they spent two hours and you know, turn in a piece of rubbish, right? Because it really wasn’t enough. And so you need to then figure out why. And, and if you figure those things out, you will get better performance. It’s not an overnight thing. And I think that’s the other piece of being accountable is you need to be realistic about how long it takes to steer the ship, the larger your team is, the longer it’s going to take. And so you need to have ideas in mind as to how you can break down those barriers, but then also realistic timelines for how to get to the performance that you ultimately need and expect.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, and you’re right. It’s not an overnight success kind of thing. And even just changing your own language and your own habits, that takes a while. I mean, it’s no, what do they say it’s at least 90 days to make a habit. Right? So you’re looking at probably a six month length of time to just create to change your own behavior, let alone that of your team.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And this is also where it can be helpful to, you know, to ask others for help, right. And it’s a big challenge or, you know, agency owners because they don’t often have people to talk to but talk to other agents. can see owners talk to a coach like you did it, you know, talk to someone who can, you know, help you do that reality check on your expectations, who can perhaps, you know, talk through the challenge that you’re having and help you figure out the right questions to ask of your team to figure out, you know, what are those problems. But, you know, the key piece to remember is that the team, at the end of the day is a reflection of you. It’s either it’s either underperforming because you brought the wrong people in, because you haven’t given them the tools they need to succeed, because you have the wrong expectations, whatever, but it, it ultimately circles back to you. So don’t go into it with the idea that you’re pointing the finger outward, you need to point it inward. And that’s how you’ll find the long term solutions, the challenge

Gini Dietrich 

a men.

Chip Griffin 

And that concludes our short term challenge, which was getting this episode recorded. Without any illusion tonight, we are so so proud of you, Jenny.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, that’d be one of those cases where I’ve had to adjust my expectations for my co chair now.

Gini Dietrich 

I love it. I love that you’re like, I’m just gonna sit back here and wait, you let me know when you’re ready. And it took me a couple minutes.

Chip Griffin 

I am still stunned, we managed to get this this entire episode recorded. So the fact that that is great if you’re if you’re still listening at this point, if you’re one of those five listeners, and you made it all the way through here, we really do appreciate it. We will try to be no I’m not even gonna bother. We’re not going

Gini Dietrich 

yeah, listen, if I miss it through the rest of the this year without a straight jacket, well, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a miracle.

Chip Griffin 

This is what it is. I mean, you know, we were off the rails before the pandemic, you know, now, we don’t we don’t even know where the rails are anymore, folks. So

Gini Dietrich 

it’s just what it is.

Chip Griffin 

So with that, we will we will move on with our lives with our work weeks and see you back here next week. I’m Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich 

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin 

and it depends

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