Accountability in your sales organization means that when you set a target, or a goal, or a deadline, then you need to make sure that it gets done.  Accountability only has substance if failing to do what one is held accountable to has consequences. This principle is brilliantly illustrated by the political situations in both Iran and Syria.

President Obama has made great efforts to address the crisis in Syria and the development of nuclear weapons threat in Iran through multilateral, diplomatic means.  Why single out Obama on this?  Because rather than go at it alone or with a coalition of the willing, he has put American military power in his pocket (for now?) and attempted to seek results through a diplomatic route led by the UN, as international law would dictate that one does.  No other country can really do that, because only American has both the political will, potential ability and the military power to consider using or not using a non-multilateral option in these kinds of situations.

Whether or not you think this is a good thing, it is intuitively clear that it doesn’t make sense to seek a diplomatic solution, and then keep seeking it regardless of the results. If a multilateral diplomatic solution is Plan A, then what happens if it doesn’t work and when will it be decided that it is time to consider something else?

The parallel issues that relate to sales management are accountability and consequences. This political dilemma is structurally no different than a sales manager trying to address sub-standard performance in a salesperson by a particular approach.  If it doesn’t work, does it make sense to keep trying the same thing indefinitely?

Sounds a lot like that old definition of insanity – try the same thing again and again and see if you get different results.  Yup – crazy!

In your sales organization, both goals and consequences should be clear. President Obama is facing issues that are much more complex, and the results of his decisions much more significant to a greater number of people, but the principle is still the same.

That principle was well articulated in a horse training manual that I read one summer before taking a wrangler job at a summer camp. It said that when you want the horse to do something, first ask, then tell, then command. There is no reason to start with a command, but it is fruitless to repeatedly ask and be ignored (sn’t it amazing how much horses, salespeople and uncooperative political leaders have in common!?!). Obama needs to consider the extent to which the requests of the international community may be ignored by Assad and Iran, and then decide what telling and commanding might look like.

As for you and your sales organization, if you fail to escalate your responses towards the consequences around accountability, you will be ignored -  whatever you say and however you say it – and a culture of mediocrity plus the (lack of) results that follow will be your prize.

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