In the craziness of life, Action Steps – aka, tasks that need to be completed – are unlikely to happen without a sense of accountability to complete them. However, at some point, individual supervision backfires. Having a boss looking over our shoulder can actually reduce our motivation. We want to take pride in our own productivity and not feel like others induce it. For this reason, we must take accountability by the reigns and set up our own collaborative systems. There are various tactics for doing so:
Action Step Recounting
Some teams have a quick “action go-around” at the conclusion of every meeting. Each person takes a turn reciting the Action Steps that he/she captured. After each turn, the rest of the group has a minute to comment on anything that may have been missed - after all, most ideas never happen because the actions required are not properly captured. This verbal exchange that takes place is a powerful force of accountability. Magic happens when you state publicly that you are going to do something.
Public To-Do Lists
Imagine if your to-do lists were printed in 32-point font on huge pieces of paper tacked up on the wall. Psychologically speaking, this is a surprisingly effective method for creating accountability in a team environment. You can do this literally with easel pads visible to all, or you can use various technology solutions to post Action Steps publicly. Regardless of which system you employ, you will want to foster public disclosure of productivity – allowing everyone to see your outstanding Action Steps as well as your progress. Doing so will not only make you more accountable but also inform colleagues when you might need assistance.
Accountability via Photocopy & The Mailman
If you’ve ever served on a non-profit board of volunteers, you have likely witnessed a group of people commit to taking a series of actions – and then nothing happening after the meeting. I came across one non-profit board that found a clever way to hold people accountable for their tasks. Everyone is given a sheet at every meeting to capture Action Steps that come up. When someone says, “oh sure, I’ll do that,” the Chair of the board says, “great, write that down.” Then, at the conclusion of the meeting, everybody’s sheet is collected, quickly photocopied, and returned. You leave the meeting with your original copy, just as you normally would. However, one month later, you stumble upon a letter when opening your mail and – surprise – there is a photocopy of your Action Steps, in your own handwriting. It’s a powerful reminder.
While our natural instinct is to seclude ourselves into our own productivity cocoons, we must also incorporate the necessary pressures to stay on task. Most often, these pressures are external and must be tolerated, if not embraced!
***This article is based on research by Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List.