Why do we need accountability?

Jenna was in the habit of just getting things done. When she and her boss, set up her tasks, they would set a deadline and she would get them done. At first, anyway. But it didn’t seem to matter; her boss didn’t seem to know or care if she got these things done. When Jenna became busier, some of her deadlines started to slip. At first she felt guilty but since it didn’t seem to matter, she eventually stopped following through on some tasks at all.

Generally, people aren’t trying to get away with not doing what they promised. But when no one notices or seems to care about the completion or even the progress of a task, it becomes difficult to remain focused. Quite simply, it’s hard to keep promises to oneself.

Read more about that in this article, Why can’t I keep the promises I make to myself?

When no one seems to care

Most of us have an abundance of items on our task lists.  We have many different demands for our attention, and we can spend our time in so many different ways. So, what do we actually engage with?

With the brains we have, it’s most likely going to be the thing that will provide the most satisfaction or reward (i.e., dopamine or other feel-good neurochemicals). Maybe we’ll go for the “low hanging fruit” – the easiest one to cross off the list (dopamine!). Or we’ll go for the one that we will enjoy. Given our social brains, we are likely to work on the item that will lead to emotional social rewards, like more belonging or recognition.

Rarely are we going to begin with the task that no one else cares about, especially if it’s a bit challenging.

This is life. We choose instant gratification. Our emotional brain guides us to do things that have a payoff – a reward of some sort.

Accountability helps us get things done

The evidence is clear: if someone is going to ask about that task, we are way more likely to do it.

This is why, as a coach, manager or even as a family member or friend, it can be so helpful to let someone know that you will check in with them about how they are doing on a task they find challenging. This helps hold people to account for the actions they want to accomplish.

Accountability doesn’t have to be about

  • Being parental
  • Punishment or “justice”
  • Micromanaging

If you want to support someone in getting something done, create a simple accountability structure where you check in with them because you care. Remember to be curious and ask about progress without judgement and without inducing blame, shame or guilt.

Coaches Going Corporate

Coaches Going Corporate

If you are an internal or independent coach who wants to strengthen your coaching skills and reach a broader range of clients, check out Coaches Going Corporate.

This is a partly self-paced programme and partly social learning together and it provides 15 CCEs from ICF.

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