Crucial accountability – Part 3: move to action  

After covering Part 1: work on me first and Part 2: create safety, it is time to review how to gain commitment and move to action.

1️⃣ Agree on a Plan and Follow Up

Make a plan complete with WWWF
The key to making a complete and clear plan, free from all assumptions (and thus improving proper accounting), is to make sure to include 4 key components:

  • Who (W)
    • Someone’s name has to be attached to each task. But there’s the rub. Someone’s name has to be attached. Someone need to be in charge or accountable. We is too vague. In business the term we is often synonymous with nobody. There is no we in accountability.
      For accountability to work, a person needs to know what he or she is expected to do. If the task requires many hands, each person needs to know what his or her part of the assignment is. The “team” can be as ambiguous as “us” or “we”. Therefore, when it comes to large jobs, make sure one person is responsible for the whole task and then link specific people to each part.
  • Does what (W)
    • Need to provide a detailed description of the exact behaviors we are looking for.
      “By being more creative I mean I’d like you to come up with more product ideas on your own. I’d love for you to come to our weekly meeting and present new ideas for improvements. The same is true for solutions. When you see a problem, rather than asking what needs to be done, come up with suggestions and then present them to me.”
    • If you suspect that other people are likely to misunderstand you, use Contrasting: “I want you to think of new plans. I don’t want you to implement them until we’ve had a chance to talk, but I do want you to take the initiative to present them.”
  • By when (W)
  • Follow-up (F)
    • Once you’ve clarified who is supposed to do what and by when, the next step should be obvious: decide when and how you’ll follow up on what’s supposed to happen.
      When choosing the frequency and type of follow-up you’ll use, consider the following three variables:
      • Risk: how risky or crucial is the project or needed result?
      • Trust: how well has this person performed in the past; what is his or her track record?
      • Competence: how experienced is this person in this area?
    • If the task the other person has agreed to do is risky, meaning that bad things will happen if it is not done well, and if it is being given to someone who is inexperienced or has poor track record, the follow-up will be fairly aggressive. It’ll come soon and often. If the task is routine and is given to someone who is experienced and productive, the follow-up will be far more casual.
    • If you don’t have a defined relationship, follow-up can require more creativity. For example, a woman who discussed inappropriate behavior from a male coworker worried that talking about the infraction might not put an end to the behavior, and so she built in a follow-up. She concluded by saying, “Would it be okay if in a month we met in the cafeteria for lunch? I’d suggest our first agenda item be ‘Am I acting weird toward you since this discussion?’ and ‘Has the behavior stopped from my perspective?’ What do you say?” This candid, sincere, and respectful request was accepted. And when it was, this skilled woman gained four weeks of clear accountability. The behavior stopped. If you find yourself in a conversation where you’re worried about backsliding, never walk away without agreeing on the follow-up time.

💡Micromanagement or Abandonment

When people feel as if they’re being watched too closely, they tend to transmute into “good soldiers.” “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” They check their brains at the door. They perceive follow-up as criticism. They feel that they are working for a micromanager and are given no chance to show initiative or creativity. In short, the relationship they have with their boss is not based on trust and respect.

When making an assignment, describe the type of follow-up you think is appropriate. Explain why and be candid about your reasoning. Then sincerely ask if the other person agrees with the method. When you both agree on the frequency and type of follow-up and you both know it, you won’t be left wondering if you are being perceived as too hands-off or too hands-on.

💡Two forms of follow-up: checkup and checkback

Do a checkup when you’re giving the assignment and are nervous or have questions. You’ve looked at the risk, the track record, and the person’s experience, and you’re feeling anxious or uneasy, even tense. This is the time to use a checkup. You take the lead.
The fact that you’re taking the lead doesn’t mean that you are micromanaging. It means that you own the follow-up. It can and certainly should mean that you’re interested in how the task went, what worked, and what got in the way.

Use a checkback when the task is routine and has been assigned to someone who is experienced and reliable. Now that person is in charge. That person checks back. He or she offers suggestions: “How about we follow up at our next scheduled meeting?” or “The deadline is two weeks from today. Could we meet next Thursday 15 minutes before our staff meeting to touch base?”

To achieve the results you want as well as maintain healthy relationships, both checkups and checkbacks can be useful forms of follow-up.

2️⃣ Put it all together

  • Choose What and If
    • What. Ask yourself what you really want. You can talk about the content, the pattern, or the relationship. To stay focused, ask what you really want.
    • If. Are you talking yourself out of an accountability discussion? Don’t let fear substitute for reason. Think carefully not just about the risks of having the conversation but also about the risks of not having it.
  • Master my stories
    • Instead of assuming the worst and the acting in ways that confirm your story, stop and tell the rest of the story. Ask: “Why would a reasonable person not do what he or she promised?” What role might I have played?” When you see the other person as a human being rather than a villain, you’re ready to begin.
  • Describe the Gap
    • Make if safe by starting with the facts and describing the gap between what was expected and what was observed. Tentatively share your story only after you’ve shared your facts. End with a question to help diagnose.
  • Make It Motivating and Easy
    • After you’ve paused to diagnose, listen for motivation and ability. Remember, you rarely need power. In fact, power puts you at risk. Instead, make it motivating and make it easy. To do that, explore the six sources of influence. Remember to consider social and structural sources of influence.
  • Agree on a Plan and Follow Up
    • Remember who does what by when and then follow up. This idea is simple and serves as its own reminder. Then ask to make sure you’re not leaving out any details or missing any possible barriers.
  • Stay Focused and Flexible
    • As other issues come up, don’t meander; consciously choose whether to change the conversation to the new issue. Weigh the new infraction. If it’s more serious or time sensitive, deal with it. If it is not, don’t get sidetracked.

I invite you to check the entire series of articles about crucial conversations and crucial accountability and prepare a list with clear actions that you want to apply from today. Move to the action! 🚀

1 thought on “Crucial accountability – Part 3: move to action  

  1. Pingback: Crucial Conversations & Crucial Accountability | alin miu

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