In a society where no one seems to be accountable anymore, discussing accountability can be a slippery slope. But accountability is a critical principle. Without it, we fail both individually and collectively. The rules are changing. In this new political and economic climate, the difference between companies who are solvent and those who are just a memory will be just that: accountability.
While it may not seem so to you, you are the face of your organization to your client. In talking to their colleagues, your client won’t talk in terms of “Company XYZ can be counted on”–they’ll say instead that Jane, Tom or Nancy can be counted on. Is that what your clients say about you?
Broadening the picture, can people generally look to you as:
- A Rock— Can you be counted on 100 percent by your boss? By your clients? You earn a valuable reputation for dependability by meeting your obligations efficiently and on time. .
- A Smarty— Do you have a reputation for making great decisions? Can your clients count on you for sound judgment? Before you act, make sure to gather all relevant information, and examine issues from all angles.
- A Fixer— Are you willing to correct a mistake, even if it wasn’t your fault? Rather than pointing fingers when errors occur, focus on solving the problem. Then backtrack to identify what went wrong and how similar situations can be avoided.
- A Trusted Source— Be up-front when you do make a mistake and come prepared with a solution. Hiding problems only forestalls the inevitable.
Steps you can take to build your Accountability Quotient include:
- Make deadlines a priority— Work with clients to set realistic timeframes on projects. Then make sure you always meet your deadlines. If for reasons beyond your control a project is running late, let your client know as soon as possible. This isn’t the business climate in which to avoid the tough conversations.
- Don’t be a “hanging chad” – Make sure projects stay on track from start to finish. Start to view project holistically and from the client’s perspective. Don’t just see your small piece of the pie. If there is a setback or confusion during a project, take the lead in moving toward resolution.
- Keep in mind the chain of accountability— You’re accountable to your manager, who, in turn, is accountable to his or her boss. This chain of command is paralleled within your client’s organization. Always be aware that your mistakes reflect poorly on your client, and on the flip side, your successes make her look good. The more you can make your client shine in front of others, the more valuable you’ll be.
- Let the buck stop with you— If coworkers or clients are having trouble finding help, try to point them in the right direction or find a solution for them, even if the matter doesn’t directly involve you. By lending a helping hand you’ll develop a reputation as the person who gets things done.
- The devil is in the details – Try to make your work as accurate as possible before it reaches others. Sometimes it helps to put written communications such as emails and work orders aside for a few minutes before proofing them again and sending them on. You’ll be able to catch errors that you might otherwise miss.
- Plan for success – In times like these, it is easy to plan to avoid failure rather than to plan for success. The former is a defensive strategy and the latter an offensive strategy. Planning for success means that you are using your knowledge and creativity to make good choices, not just safe choices.
Being known as accountable is likely to make you the go-to person for your clients. Show me the down side of that.
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