Ask, Tell and Get Down to Business

When you’re the leader, CEO, managing partner or owner of an organization, I suggest making time in your schedule for regularly scheduled accountability meetings with your people. To really hold people accountable, you need to be in touch with them routinely and frequently. Regular meetings give you the structure to do that.

So here you are, sitting across the desk or conference table, and your team member is staring back at you waiting for you to say something brilliant. No pressure there, right?

Good news. This is not about you coming up with some sort of speech or one-sided set of directives. It’s about asking questions and listening – really listening – to the answers. I’ll even give you a template for an accountability meeting.

The most powerful conversations, however, go beyond the template. Truly effective leaders build relationships that foster openness, safety and communication.

Like a laser slices precisely through whatever it is cutting, the following phrases cut through excuses, habits, blame and other things that are stopping or blocking this person from being productive and successful. With that out of the way, you can get down to helping the person meet his or her goal.

Before you even sit down for your first meeting, you’re going to create an upfront agreement. In that agreement, make it clear that you’ve got a whole toolkit full of these lasers, and that if you hear excuses, habits and blame going on, you’re going to cut through them.

Are you ready? Here are the phrases:

1. Tell me what to ask of you. Really, what else should I be asking right now? (We all know much more than we give ourselves credit for. In a sense, this is about letting people coach themselves.)
2. Tell me what’s REALLY not being handled or is holding you back. C’mon, what’s really going on here? (This is great after you’ve been sitting around for awhile listening to someone place blame and make excuses, or as they skirt around an issue because they’re obviously embarrassed.)
3. Tell me how to acknowledge and encourage you. (It’s unfortunate that leaders aren’t great at acknowledging people. If you’re unable to do it on your own, ask people to help you do it!)
4. Ask me how I perceive how you come across. (This is a two-way street. Give the other person permission to give you the same feedback. Neither of you should see this as criticism, since you’re asking for it.)
5. Tell me what I can change that will improve the quality of my leadership. (Coaching is inter-developmental – both the coach and the coachee can be growing, learning and improving at all times.)
6. Tell me when there’s something going on. Tolerate nothing between us. (An accountability session is no place to sweep something under the rug.)
7. Ask me to make this more fun for you. (The motivation to succeed must come from inside the other person, but as the leader you can help them do it.)

Can you see how these laser-sharp phrases could stop unproductive banter in its tracks and help you get down to business? What about you? What’s in your way? My laser is fully-loaded – call me.