While we all hate being micromanaged, there is great value in providing clear accountability structures on teams to help keep projects (and people!) on track. In a perfect world, perhaps everyone would just always do what they were supposed to when they were supposed to without any additional guidance. But my years of experience tell me that this is DEFINITELY not the case. The truth is, we all need accountability structures, whether it be in our business, our personal lives, as parents, or in any other role you might play.
So, how do we create accountability?
Accountability can come in many forms. One of my favorites is physical structures – some kind of concrete thing that reminds you what the expectations are. This can be arranging for a friend to pick you up so you don’t skip your workout, changing your password to ‘breathe’ if you are trying to be more mindful, or even putting a rock in your pocket to remind you of a goal you’re trying to achieve.
Keep ownership in the right place
One of the things I learned from coaching is that a key part of accountability is that the person responsible has ownership of it. What does that mean? It means they are clear on the expectations and own the responsibility of meeting them. For example, to minimize the morning rush to the school bus drama at my house (sound familiar?), I started setting the stove timer as soon as I woke up for the number of minutes until the bus comes. My girls are responsible for keeping track of the timer and getting out the door on time. I don’t nag them or remind them of the time – THEY own the responsibility for not missing the bus. (And if they do miss it? Well, they have to pay me for a ride to school, to compensate for my time, gas and hassle. Logical and enforced consequences are key!)
Identify patterns…and prevent them
Work with someone who misses every deadline? Well, rather than just asking over and over if something’s done (or getting frustrated and resentful when it’s repeatedly not!), try saying something like, ‘I notice that when we agree upon deadlines, they are often missed. That makes it hard for me to keep on track with my deadlines and commitments. I’m wondering how we can better design a process that will support you to meet them?’ This helps them know that they aren’t alone if they need help, but that the expectation that they’ll get it done is there. And don’t come to their rescue, otherwise you’ll just reinforce the bad habits with the knowledge that nothing negative will happen if they don’t do it. You may also need to set up more, smaller steps (with regular check-ins) toward the end goal to help keep things moving forward.
Try it. You’ll like it!
I encourage you to identify ONE accountability structure you can put in place starting today—for yourself, your kids or someone on your team. Who knows, maybe together we can achieve that “perfect world” where we all magically meet all of our commitments on time. And, don’t be scared to tell people what you’re working towards – this provides even greater accountability!
Leave a comment below and let me know how it goes. Even if you fail fabulously, you’ll be on your way to getting things done without the drama.