Written By: Jason Coleman, CTC, ECC, CLS, LCS, DS, Business Development Manager/MentorU Coach, UNIGLOBE Travel Center
Accountability is often cited as a key to success by many business and industry leaders. It is an important topic, regardless of whether we are discussing politicians, children/partners, colleagues, or ourselves. Do you have a good handle on what accountability is, and how you, as a travel professional, can use accountability on your quest for business success?
At its heart, accountability is about obligation, responsibility, and transparency: identifying the obligations that are expected of you, or that you set for yourself; taking responsibility and delivering on your commitments and goals; and, being transparent and open with a support system.
These fundamentals are the same for everyone, from executives running large Google- and Amazon-size businesses, to the single-person travel agency owner/operator. The good news is that it is very likely you are already implementing some accountability best practices on a daily basis without even realizing it.
Case in point: I’m a runner and frequently post about my goals and successes running marathons on Facebook. I was recently accepted to run the 2018 Boston Marathon (for the third year in a row I might add!) and posted about this on Facebook. Sharing this goal in a public setting is one way to hold myself accountable. Friends will follow my progress as I train and fundraise for my charity team. I will post updates including both challenges and successes along the way. My supporters and I will celebrate my accomplishment together after I cross the finish line.
This one personal example provides a real-life demonstration of the three components of accountability: obligation, responsibility, and transparency. How can you apply these same principles to your business? Let’s look at each component individually and evaluate what you are already doing and what you can add to make accountability part of your success plan.
Obligations are those things we are morally or legally required to do. Above and beyond any legal mandates, this involves identifying all the things you commit to do. As travel professionals, we deal with both every day. Legal requirements are things like fiduciary responsibilities to our clients, invoicing bookings timely, and providing appropriate disclosures and documents. But don’t forget about the batch of activities you commit to do. They’re more than just a task list; they’re obligations.
What are some of the activities you commit to do on a daily basis?
Provide information to clients
Return calls and emails
Complete tasks and projects
There is a whole separate group of obligations to think about, and these are the goals you’ve set for you and your business. I use the word “obligations” here loosely. Goals do not come with legal mandates or commitments. However they do serve as a way to focus your efforts and activities. In this sense, it can be useful to give your goals more weight and importance.
But first, do you even have goals for your business? Only you can determine what goals are appropriate based on your vision. Some goals for you to think about are:
Annual sales – number of cruises sold, tours booked, etc.
Client list – adding to your prospect list, clients booking more frequently or larger sales
Education – pursuing destination and supplier education programs
Travel – expanding your personal travel experiences
Thinking of your business goals as “must have” obligations rather than “nice to have” pursuits is what separates successful entrepreneurs from those that just maintain and survive. Are you driven by a relentless pursuit of your goals? Does this describe you in your business?
Responsibility refers to doing whatever it takes to get the task done. Whether they are legal obligations, commitments you have made, or goals you are pursuing, are you delivering?
The travel industry can be overwhelming with information and there is no shortage of distractions and busy work. Are you able to wade through all of that and stay focused? Results are what matters here, so how are you doing completing your tasks and goals?
One of the biggest challenges with responsibility I face is working independently. I am easily distracted, and tend to hop from project to project, activity to activity. Staying focused requires extra effort. Taking responsibility for my time and implementing systems to counter these tendencies is a priority for me.
The most efficient system I have found to keep me focused and on task is doing one thing at a time for a 25-minute block. I use an app on my phone called Focus Time which is nothing more than a fancy timer. I program 25 minutes of solid work on a single task or activity, and then I get a break. I make it into a sort of game to complete a number of work blocks and reward myself with a longer break. Because I work independently, I find it very easy to put in way more than 8 hours in a day. Taking frequent “reward” breaks helps energize me while staying focused on the important tasks in front of me.
Being responsible for my time and schedule, while focused on my tasks and goals is one way I hold myself accountable. It also means taking responsibility when I fall short of my expectations, or those that are set for me. Owning up to failures or gaps in expectations is an important part of accountability, which directly relates to the third component, transparency.
Transparency is essential for accountability. It is being open and honest with yourself and a support team. Personally, I consider this support structure the single most important component of accountability. And it is this element that I think presents the greatest opportunity for travel professionals.
Who supports you and holds you accountable? Accountability support systems can take any number of shapes and sizes. At the most basic level, you can hold yourself accountable by putting your goals, plans, and activities down in writing and regularly reviewing them. I encourage you to go a step further though. Consider a peer accountability partner, a business coach, or a mastermind group. Any of these can serve as excellent resources to hold you accountable.
I am a business coach to many of our agents at UNIGLOBE Travel Center. My job is to have regular coaching calls with them to help them build their business and start off on a path of success. In many ways, I serve as their accountability partner. We discuss their goals and plans, meet regularly to review their progress, discuss challenges and opportunities as they arise, and celebrate successes when they make a sale or achieve a goal.
I also encourage them to take responsibility when they’re not making the progress they’d like. More often than not, I find it is because they got distracted or overwhelmed by something not directly related to their tasks or goals. My job is to help get them back on track. Accountability partners, whether they be individuals or groups, do that for each other.
Holding yourself accountable requires that you first identify your obligations, whether they be expectations or goals. Secondly, it means taking responsibility to do whatever it takes to accomplish the task. And lastly, it requires honesty and openness with a support system to give you feedback and encouragement.
I encourage you to find an accountability partner you can rely on as you move along your road to business success. It can be the difference between a long struggle on your own, or an enjoyable journey with support and encouragement along the way. And if you need any help or ideas, contact me. I’ll help you find one!