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In the business coaching game, do you also often hear the words “accountability.” This comes from both the coaches and from the people being coached, who say they need someone to hold them accountable. Blimey, even I have liberally used this word, this meaning.

The reality is very few people really want accountability. What most are “saying” (aka, really thinking) is: yes I acknowledge that at times I am a little slack, get distracted, change priorities on a whim, sometimes I am unsure of the next best steps. So, I want someone to hold me accountable.”

But Monkey Voice, the one in the back of their head is saying: you are just disorganized, someone will find out that you are not really on top of it, you should be doing better, dig deeper try harder, I bet you can’t” At this point it just makes logical sense that you get someone in to hold you accountable.

So, what happens next is that we can start offloading some of our accountability (aka. responsibility), because someone else is there to pick it up. No longer is it necessary to lift our game in that area. Subconsciously you can justify this by either blaming the accountability partner for mishaps or act as a martyr and say: I stuffed up! This sounds good, you look great, even honourable, but what really changes?

I was coaching one of my clients this morning and I read the following article published this morning in the New Zealand Herald:

the ‘ruthless’ review after All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup loss to England

Did you read it?

There are many reasons to love the All Blacks. They have the best winning track record in the world, have been #1 for so many years, they have redefined rugby and will do it again now that the rest of the world has caught up. Besides a few individual cases, they have demonstrated admirable humbleness and humility in winning and loosing (unlike this year’s runner ups.)

Many All Blacks over many years have engaged in public speeches where they have spoken about the culture, discipline and privilege of what it means to be an All Black. There is a direct correlation to business and what happens in the All Blacks, in fact there are books dedicated to this subject (if you are interested, read/listen to: Legacy, 15 lessons in leadership written by James Kerr.)

Let’s get back to business. How do you manage errors in your company? How do you manage conflict in your company?

My advice to this business, and it will most likely apply to you as well:

·        Establish a meeting rhythm. Rhythm implies consistency. For your business, is this daily, weekly or a combination of this? Certainly, no further out than weekly.

·        At the meeting everyone discusses what they achieved yesterday, what they have on today. What problems they encountered, how where these overcome. To get these meetings right: no sitting, 2-minutes per person, limit the group size.

·        Everyday, if something goes wrong do a speedy Root Cause Analysis (RCA). How did it go wrong? What can we change in the system, the training, the communication? Do not play the man, play the system. If you are familiar with “5 x whys,” then this is the time to implement it.

As in this article, limit the points to no more than 3, even if there are more, even really good points. More will just dilute the message resulting in no action. Just work on one point at a time until it becomes part of the culture, part of the DNA, let it become: “it is just the way we do things around here.”

So, what if you are a one-person operation? Simple, get an accountability partner. And if you are a small team, or in fact a large team or company? Simple, get an accountability partner or partners. Your culture needs to be about productive accountability, not about blame or avoidance. As in the proven concepts of Lean, TPS, Kaizen etc, continually stretch the boundaries of improvement, and that starts with an honest culture of delivering on self-accountability supported by accountability partners.