Karen’s Top 12 Tips to Enhance Accountability

Here is a list of a dozen leader actions to enhance accountability in your organization. Select one approach to start today.

1. Why Are We Doing This?

Help people understand the reason their task is essential. To learn “why” sometimes requires research. Why is the funding agency asking for that information? Why does the IRS require this? Once you know the whys, help others to understand them.

2. Delegating is Good.

Asking and forgetting about the task is not. Help people to “mind the gap” between your request and the necessary follow-through. Often a quick email to ask about progress suffices. As you plan specific follow-ups, record them in your calendar.

3. Check Your Habits.

If you habitually arrive late or are otherwise time-challenged, analyze what delays you. Act to correct challenges. Stop picking up telephone calls ten minutes before you depart. Add extra time to your trips during the high season to accommodate increased traffic.

4. Start Meetings on Time.

A three to a five-minute window is more than adequate to adjust a meeting’s start for on-time arrivals. When you delay more for latecomers, early and on-time people adapt their schedule and begin to arrive late, aggravating the situation. If an on-time start reflects a policy change before your next meeting, announce that you will begin promptly.

5. Expect Less.

Assume other people have great intentions but also busy, semi-chaotic lives. If an item is essential to you, take the onus to get it done. Assign yourself the follow-up call to track progress.

6. Close Loops.

Use emails and texts to confirm that you received materials, the appointments are recorded, and the tasks are completed. To close loops, write “Done 8/15. ME” on the assignment paperwork and return it. Let people know their work was used and helpful. While it is not possible or desirable with every task, public affirmation also helps build accountability.

7. Commit Less

…especially to things you don’t want to do. “I’d love to, but my calendar (“Cal, the Meany”) won’t allow it.”

8. Eliminate the phrases “Let’s do lunch” and “We’ll have to get together”

…from your conversations unless you plan to act on these invitations. Instead, when it’s true, share the often more meaningful, “It was great to see you today. I look forward to seeing you next time.”

9. Schedule Tasks…

related to your goals in your calendar. If you’ve intended to start on a critical project, open your calendar now. Make an appointment to begin. Treat the meeting like one with a crucial donor you want to see.

10. Send the Right Signal…

with your physical space –especially to yourself. Are piles of out-of-control items drowning you? Or is everything organized so that you sense everything necessary will get done? If you don’t experience the latter, it’s time to set a time to organize the chaos. Write this appointment in your calendar in your next available time slot. As you work, avoid getting sidetracked by what you unearth; focus on organizing.

11. Recognize Potential Groupthink.

Don’t assume consensus when your board or others readily agree to complete a challenging task. It is maddening to find out that 30 days after that, while everyone agreed, no one intends to follow through. Before and after commitments are made, check with individuals impacted privately.

12. Make It Easy for People to Share Challenges.

Create a “No-Fault Zone” where people can express their difficulty with a task—ideally within 48 hours or less of an assignment. This zone allows you to help them to decide if they: 1) Need more information –the most common reason (“I don’t know what to say to this donor.”), 2) The task needs to be reassigned (the task doesn’t meet their skill set and more information won’t help) or 3) More motivation (the proverbial “I’ll do it if you put a gun to my head.”)

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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