This is Part 2 of my journey (in three parts in 3 weeks) to what I consider to be the heart of great More Human leadership – the success trifecta: A successful company, A happy team, And a fulfilled YOU.
If you haven’t read Part 1, check it out HERE, and then come on back.
Principle #5: Building a Culture Of Accountability
Once I crossed the bridge to “we”, got trust, established core values, and found and taught more human leaders, we then asked our employees for something that at first glance seemed very counterintuitive to being more human, but in the end, was the most human thing we did, and the most important thing to building a great company and team. But it wasn’t going to be easy.
We asked for, and got, a culture of accountability at all levels of the organization, which enabled us to sustain a level of high performance that exceeded whatever could have been achieved through traditional “bossman” leadership.
We got it because we were connected at a personal level, and so when I stood up and asked for accountability, and explained that it was necessary to not only make the company profitable, but to make them happy and fulfilled as employees, they trusted me, and followed along.
There were 10 things we did to foster this culture:
1) Roles & responsibilities are clearly (and properly) defined – What are the expectations of every position, and why do they matter? They must be thought through, and documented. It’s time consuming, yes, but there will be a huge return on that investment.
2) New hires reflect a match of the right personalities (and skill sets) with the jobs – No matter how hard we try, we can’t change personalities. If they are not predisposed to thrive in a Culture of Accountability, don’t hire them.
3) The “what” and “why” are communicated, relentlessly – The leader is a “contextual conduit”, providing clarity and consistency at every opportunity. And I mean EVERY. You’re not saying it enough until you hear “there he (or she) goes again”.
4) The right metrics & measurements are set up – Each position needs objectives measure of success, from both a personal, team, and company-wide perspective. Choose them wisely, and keep them to a small and manageable number.
5) The metrics are monitored and measured, relentlessly – All the cool metrics in the world can’t do a lick of good unless there’s a human digesting (and using) them. My biggest pet peeve is wasting valuable time by creating reports that are never read.
6) Performance reviews are not “have to dos” but “want to dos” – Interactions between leader and teammate regarding performance should be an ongoing open dialogue, not a process driven, obligatory drudgery. They should be welcomed, not feared.
7) When expectations are not met, consequences must follow – It’s all about being fair and honest– it not only affects the person involved, but the entire team.
8) Peer mentoring should be encouraged – There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing long-time teammates take a new peer under their wing, or seeing team meetings that rarely need management intervention to inspire better performance.
9) Great performance HAS to be acknowledged and rewarded – The other end of the spectrum but just as important (see #7 above).
10) Leaders have to show the way and hold themselves accountable – It all starts with YOU. You have to “walk the walk”. You have to be more human. Only then will the Culture of Accountability really take flight.
Principle #6: Measuring, Monitoring And Managing With The Right Metrics
Let’s talk about metrics. I needed a lot of them to establish that culture of accountability, but there was something else I needed some key metrics for – it’s a word that gets batted around a lot in leadership circles, and for good reason.
It’s when every person within an organization, leaders and all, is focused, coordinated, and pointed in the same direction, under a common purpose, and with a high level common set of goals and objectives – ones that “fit” with our core values.
There are also subsets of separate goals and objectives for each functional area and/or division of the organization, but they all funnel nicely up to (and serve the purpose of) the high level ones.
The short version of this definition is commonly known as “everybody on the same page”.
Early on in my journey, I heard that line again and again during my career, but more often in the form of a lament.
“Why isn’t everyone on the same page?????”
Until I was able to shed my old suit as a spreadsheet assassin, I wasn’t able to crack the code. Once I did, and became more human, I discovered something deceptively simple that finally got it done:
The Theory of 3 Numbers.
It’s a theory that revolves around the simplest of business ideas, one said so eloquently by the late Peter Drucker:
“The purpose of a business is to create a customer”
Here’s how the theory flows from that premise. There are 3 numbers that relate to customers that, if properly tracked, monitored and fostered, can create great alignment.
The first, is a Total (Valued) Customer Number
For some businesses, that’s an easy one to figure out. In the cable television business, the example I’ve been talking about here, it was anyone who was paying for that wire going into their home, and then into their TV, modem and/or telephone.
For other businesses, you may have to dig around a little bit, but the important thing is to find a count that is a real profit driver (the “valued” part). For example, in a retail business, I’d look for a repeat customer count of some kind.
The second, is a Customer Pain Number.
This is a count of the things that go wrong, and cause pain for a customer. For the cable TV business we came up with what we called a “customer fault rate”, which tallied every time a customer called in (or came to our retail locations) with a problem – of any kind (I graded on a pretty high curve).
Again, this will differ from business to business. To use the retail example again, product returns & exchanges would be a prime candidate here, although it probably would be good to tack on customer service complaints too (to go to a similar high curve as I did).
The third, is the Happy Customer Number.
I wanted to know how many cable TV customers loved us. Not just liked us, but loved us. Take us home to mother love. Customers who would spread fantastic word-of-mouth. How would I find this out? We picked up the phone, called them, and asked, basically, “how do you feel about us”, in the form of this question: “On a scale of 0-10, what is your willingness to recommend us to a friend or relative”.
You may have recognized that as what’s known as the “Ultimate Question” – the one used to come up with the commonly used Net Promoter Score (more about that here). I loved that score, because it has a direct correlation to profit, and it was a much more relatable score to talk to teammates about.
Plus, it identified those happy people.
Armed with these three numbers (and a way to generate them, which I’d add will take some work if your data gathering and database capabilities are not robust), I believed I had the critical “high-level” bases covered – who didn’t ultimately have a hand in generating these numbers? And, better still, I knew that if those metrics were optimized, profit would follow.
The last step in making the theory of 3 numbers work is to keep them on the minds of every single person in the organization. How did I do this? We measured them every week, and then we plastered them on our intranet home page, on the bulletin boards, and on the walls.
I further required every person to be able to recite the latest trio of numbers to me (or another manager), upon request.
Finally, I backed up the requirement with context – I went on the road and explained the connection of the 3 numbers to the work that they did, and why it all mattered. Over and over again (I took “Terry’s Rule” very, very seriously)
Over time, with the huge help of the 3 numbers, we achieved the alignment we desired, and the flywheel started spinning even faster.
We were all on the same page. Aligned. Focused, correctly, on our purpose, and under the banner of our values, and our mantra.
Serving our Customers, and supporting each other.
You would have thought nirvana was next, but you’d be wrong. Like any steep climb, there are obstacles that have the potential to knock you right back to where you started…