Four Mistakes People Make When Holding Others Accountable

Most employees feel frustrated, concerned or discouraged at some point during their day. And almost none speak up about their concerns in a way that gets results.

For example, two-thirds of U.S. workers lament something that goes on in their workplace, but fewer than one in 20 believe they could say something in a way that would make a difference.

Why? We dread accountability conversations. Accountability issues routinely plague families, teams and organizations when individuals either can’t or won’t deal with failed promises. When we speak up to someone who has broken rules, missed deadlines or just plain behaved badly, we often do a lousy job and create a whole new set of problems. The bottom line is we are unskilled at holding others accountable.

Here are some helpful solutions to four common mistakes we tend to make when holding others accountable:

Mistake #1: We address the wrong problem. Many people think they are good at addressing issues—when in fact they typically address the wrong problems.
Solution: Address the problem that gets you what you really want. Stop and ask yourself, “What do I really want here? What problem do I want resolved?” We often address the most immediate or painful issue instead of the one that gets us what we want.

Mistake #2: We tell ourselves stories. These stories escalate our emotions and make us do our worst when it matters most. Instead, master communicators influence their own emotions first to come into an accountability discussion clear, confident and controlled.
Solution: Influence your emotions by assaulting your story. Meaning, aggressively examine and question your story from all sides to determine what you are defending. The story you tell yourself is what determines your emotional response.

Mistake #3: We do everything wrong during the hazardous half-minute—which is the first 30 seconds. How you start sets the course for the rest of the discussion. Learn to overcome three common mistakes and you can talk with almost anyone about almost anything.
Solution: Use the three safety skills of the hazardous half-minute. If you show first that you care about the other person and their interests, their defenses drop and they listen to you. People don’t get defensive because of what they think you are saying. They get defensive because of why they think you’re saying it (your intent).

Mistake #4: We think we can’t speak up because the other person doesn’t care about the issue. Most people complain they lack the power to hold others accountable for certain issues. They’re wrong.
Solution: Reveal to people the natural consequences of their behavior. Change their view of the consequences—if they knew what was happening because of their behavior, they would likely reconsider what they were doing. Give them a complete view of the consequences they are creating. Make it enlightening instead of an attack by sharing your concerns in a safe, non-threatening way.

Mastering crucial accountability skills will not only save you grief and frustration, it can improve your most important personal and professional relationships.

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