We use words all the time to get what we want but, in many cases, we take for granted that people attach the same meaning as we do to particular words.
In business, we regularly make reference to a team's value system. We are inclined to use words like trust, integrity, accountability, responsibility, punctuality, caring and tolerance. In my observation of discussions between people on teams, and from my interactions with people, I am careful to assume that we all share the same picture of these values.
Accountability as a skill
In our Wired to Influence Programme, we make mention of accountability as a valuable Emotional Fitness skill. Once mentioned, the word sparks multiple and often opposing definitions. I am not knocking any particulate picture people may have. I merely feel that when we have a particular picture in mind, we then have to be more specific and check for consensus.
What I advocate, when we use the word accountability, is to see it as giving people an update on your progress without them having to ask for it.
Accountability starts by announcing or publishing what fellow team members can expect from you and by when. It requires you to stretch yourself, to learn from your past, to practice continual improvement, to set measurable goals and monitor your progress.
Accountability, when implemented like this, will remove the vague and ambiguous ways in which most people go about communicating what they are going to be doing. Words like; trying, thinking, hoping, possibly and busy will be replaced with more definite descriptors.
Move away from vague terminology
Timelines will also be more specific by moving away from terms like; medium-term, in the near future, any day now, should start seeing a difference, next couple of months ... and so on.
In certain organisations, not even this vague terminology is used. There is simply no personal commitment and therefore no personal accountability. In these cases, team members can bumble along day after day hugely busy with nothing really to show for themselves in terms of objectively assessed results. They are simply busy, fine, ok, not too bad and hectic.
Publish your goals and track your progress
Be accountable. Publish what you will do and by when. Track your progress and keep your team members updated. Don't wait to be asked.
When you are experiencing difficulties, delays, obstacles or any other hindrance, go beyond the need for sympathy and tell those relying on you how you have responded and how you will get back on track. I know things don't always go as planned but these moments should not mean a full stop in our approach. Life goes on. Respond well and update all interested parties.
This simple practice will add positively to your organisation's bottom line.
I look forward to any feedback after implementing this way of looking at accountability, as your feedback helps me to sell these simple tools to more and more people.
Development Facilitator - The Ripple Effect
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