Taking accountability for being accountable
Looking for ways to increase your level of accountability? Here’s one way you can take accountability for being accountable.
In this Talent Management magazine article, leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith talks about the daily-questions process. In this exercise, you partner with a friend or colleague. Each person develops a list of questions around items for which they want to be accountable. The questions can be answered by “yes” or “no,” or by ranking performance on a scale of 1-10. You and your partner touch base on daily basis (as able), and ask each other your questions to see if you accomplished what you set out to do. Some of Goldsmith’s questions include:
- How happy were you today?
- How many minutes did you spend on things that you cannot control?
- How many hours of sleep did you get?
- How many minutes did you spend walking?
- Did you say something or do something nice for [your wife]?
When I look at this process, several benefits stand out for me:
- It helps you focus on what’s important. As you develop your list of questions, you are likely to create accountability only for the things you want and need to do – if something doesn’t matter and you don’t need to do it, you don’t want to explain to someone why you didn’t do it. Also, if there is an item you regularly don’t accomplish, you can talk through whether or not it really matters; if it doesn’t, take it off your list.
- It creates accountability on multiple levels. First, developing the questions and focusing on them on a daily basis increases your accountability to yourself. Then, you take that accountability to the next level by sharing your answers, or your performance, with someone else. Knowing you have to report back to someone is encouragement to do what you say you will.
- It identifies where you’re making progress – and where you could do better. This will help you appreciate how your efforts have paid off, and identify how to best focus your efforts. For example, Goldsmith might notice his time spent walking increases each week; celebrating that can motivate him to continue at that level. He might also see that he isn’t doing something nice for his wife regularly, identifying the need to put more focus on that area.
- It reveals patterns. Over time, you can see what areas affect each other, allowing you to plan for success. For example, Goldsmith may see he spends less time writing after a night where he doesn’t log much sleep; with that knowledge, he can plan to go to bed earlier the night before he needs to focus on writing.
Here are some points to get you started with the daily-questions exercise:
- Engage a trusted friend or colleague. While the act of developing the questions is helpful, reporting back to someone takes it to the next level. Work with someone who will call you on it when you aren’t meeting your goals – and then help you uncover ways you can overcome barriers and realize stronger results.
- Focus on personal and professional goals. Your personal life affects your performance at work, and vice versa. As you develop your questions, look at how you want to show up both at work and at home. How will you maintain strong relationships with loved ones? How can you strengthen your work performance? What can you do to improve and maintain your health?
- Don’t focus on absolutes. No one is perfect, and it’s easy to get discouraged if you expect perfection. When it makes sense, use a rating scale to gauge different levels of performance. This will allow you to recognize those times you did well even when you weren’t perfect.
Would you find this process helpful? What questions would be on your list? Share your ideas in the comments section.