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June 2012

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The Courage to Be Accountable

Tyler Hoffman

By Tyler Hoffman, FMA

The desire for your team is achieved by the actions you hold them to or don't hold them to. True leaders have a sense of conviction that is contagious and predictable, and they never shy away from a difficult conversation.

We can all agree that baseball umpires calling balls and strikes need to be consistent from the first pitch to the last. We may not necessarily agree with their strike zone, but so long as they honour what they said was a strike in the first inning, everyone can walk off the field when the game’s over feeling that the officiating was fair and clear.

As a sales manager you are often like a baseball umpire, having to deal with multiple decisions and personalities every day. Your effectiveness is measured by how accountable your team is to you, and to perform like a big leaguer you need to have a sense of courage to pull it off.

There's an interesting perspective that I long ago adopted in my life and it goes like this:

You are the direct source of everything you are experiencing in your life, wanted or unwanted.

It's a tall glass of water to swallow, but the message is in the essence of taking accountability for your own decisions (and indecisions) — essentially, "manning up".

Your advisors show up in your life the way you have allowed them to show up. You have created them by enabling or disabling their behaviour.  What you tolerate and don't tolerate is all they know when they deal with you. They know what they can and can't get away with because of you. It's not them, it's you.

I suspect you're guilty of it, because I know I have been once or twice in my early career: we let an advisor "off" just a bit for not meeting the expectations because it's easier to have someone in the field not hitting 100% then to go find, train and support a new advisor. Or maybe we don't want them to think badly about us and take their production somewhere else. Now if you were an umpire and a batter was arguing with you in the seventh inning, would you change your strike zone so as to avoid a confrontation? Professional umpires would hold their stance and uphold the strike zone (expectations) they established way back in the first inning. Sure, a little league umpire might give in if it meant avoiding conflict. Which kind of “umpire” are you? Bear in mind that if you give in to the batter, you’ll then have the pitcher to contend with!

Having been a professional umpire in my former life, there was no room for not hitting expectations; we either did what we needed to do or we didn't get a contract the following year. It was very clear what we needed to do to get to the next level. However, in our industry many companies or divisions are failing to hold their advisors to the minimum production limits they have created. I cringe when I hear about sales managers accepting routinely unmet weekly activities with a "you'll do better next week, won't you?" response. Why is this happening? Why would you sabotage your culture, lower your value and settle for a sub-par effort when you’re giving them 110%? One reason is that it takes a great deal of courage to make team members toe the line. It might also mean that you need to go back to the recruiting drawing board and reset those imperative expectations earlier on with your candidates. Encouragement and giving people the benefit of the doubt can only go on for so long; eventually, you’ll need to initiate “difficult” conversations.

A useful exercise that has enabled me to engage my team members effectively for all types of conversations is to draw out a meeting agenda and stick to it. By placing everything in plain view, you won’t deviate, nor will you give yourself an opportunity to back down from being a leader.

Leadership does come from within, and by being aware of your actions, language and decisions in a deliberate form, you will improve your game and the game of your advisors. It takes just 20 second of courage!

Tyler Hoffman, FMA
Tyler is a former professional baseball umpire (AA). Tyler left balls and strikes in 2000 to pursue a career in finance. He is currently the Western Canada Sales Manager Consultant for Desjardins Financial Security.

Tyler Hoffman, FMA
Sales Manager Consultant, Western Canada
Desjardins Financial Security
#200 - 4170 Still Creek Drive
Burnaby, BC  V5C 6C6

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