Let’s Talk: Accountability is S.I.M.P.L.E.
I saw this diagram a year ago and it really got me thinking about what it means to create accountability for self and others. We often think of accountability as a process where an expectation requires some sort of behavior to be set in order to reach a certain goal, progress of the behavior is measured, and consequences are applied if adequate progress is not made. While those three steps are definitely part of the accountability process, I think we tend to miss a few crucial steps. And when you miss a few crucial steps, I think that is when we do not see progress made and ultimately, the goal is not reached. The lack of true accountability leads to dissatisfaction at work, in relationships, or with self.
The S.I.M.P.L.E method is a 6-step outline to create accountability. The steps are Set Expectations, Invite Commitment, Measure Progress, Provide Feedback, Link to Consequences, and Evaluate Effectiveness.
Set clear, direct, and thorough expectations that align with your goals and wanted results. Work with the other individual(s) to determine what the expectations are and allow time for questions to be asked. We cannot assume that people know what is expected of them and it makes it really hard to hold anyone accountable to something that was not made clear as an expectation. Setting clear expectations allows all parties to know what behavior they are going to be held accountable for and also gives parties the chance to voice if they can or cannot do something and to also express any concerns. It sets the tone and gets everyone on the same page. Once the expectations are set, write them down and share with all parties.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Invite commitment to the expectations and reaching the goal. This conversation will most likely happen while the expectations are being set. If not, it still needs to happen. People are more likely to follow through with things they buy into and things where they had an opportunity to genuinely share their voice. This is one of those often missed steps. If commitment is not invited, people may feel they are in a dictatorship. A dictator may get results out of fear, but people will not be satisfied and the chance of them leaving is higher. Dictatorships also can create high stress environments, which can affect a person’s ability to carry out the expectations. Inviting commitment creates a collaborative atmosphere.
“M” can be called measure progress or measure results. There must be checkpoints along the way to measure progress and/or results. These checkpoints should already be outlined when the goals and expectations are being set. Measurement drives conversations about performance and if the goals or expectations need to be adjusted.
Feedback should be given during the discussion about the information gathered from measuring progress/results. Feedback has to be honest and direct. People cannot correct or improve on things if the feedback is not given about what needs to be done differently. Also, feedback does not always have to be in relation to what needs improvement, feedback should also be in regards to what someone is doing well because that can serve as a motivator for people. Feedback should also go both ways. The person who is being held accountable, should have the opportunity to provide feedback as well.
Link to Consequences
Consequences help to keep us focused. They are not a bad thing: They are needed to keep people on track to reach the desired goal. Consequences should not be confused with punishment. Punishment leads to resentment or hurt. Consequences aim to encourage people to take their commitment more seriously and to make positive choices.
This is also one of those often missed steps when the link to consequences is not discussed when the expectations are set. I often see consequences given, but the link to consequences was not made in the beginning. This may lead to frustration, confusion, or discontent.
Evaluate the overall accountability system for strengths, weaknesses, areas of improvement, and things that are going well. Afterwards, what are the next action steps to grow? All parties should be involved in the evaluation process. Again, this creates a collaborative atmosphere where all voices are heard and valued.
Using this method creates a fair accountability system. A trusting relationship between all parties is important for accountability because you have to trust that people are being fair and doing what is in the best interest of the goal being reached. This method can be used not only at work, but in your personal life as well.
How will you use the S.I.M.P.L.E method in your life to create a more effective accountability system?