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The Secret Tool You Can Use To Keep People Accountable

If You Use It, You Can Get an Immediate Jump in Productivity

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BY Jim Schleckser - 09 May 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Accountability is a topic that lots of CEOs and leader talk about. Specifically, most of their concern is that they don't feel like their people hold themselves accountable to the things they need to do in driving higher levels of performance throughout the organization.

The good news is that there is a simple tool called an Action Register that you can use to build accountability in your organization. The idea behind this tool is that you create a list of items that need to be done coupled with the people assigned to complete them and the date they commit to completing the work by. I usually add a comment column to hold any updates on the progress on the objective.

For example, you might have a line item for completing a quarterly sales forecast assigned to your VP of sales with a completion date of the end of the month.

The last column in that row should be labeled something like "status," which you can use to assign a color to the task: The status should be green if it's on target; yellow if there is some risk of it being completed on time, and red if there is a real problem.

You can then consult this register when you sit down with your VP and talk through where they stand on their different commitments as a way to hold them accountable for what they agreed to do.

This tool also works really well on a team basis, where you can use the same kind of Excel sheet to build a dashboard for, say, your executive team to track where you stand on different initiatives. If you see lots of green items, you know things are going well. If there is more red and yellow, then you know you have some problems to deal with. The color-coding serves as a very simple and effective way to assess how things are progressing in a single snapshot.

There are sophisticated strategy deployment software tools like one from a company called Khorus you can use to help manage this information. Or, if you're like me, you can just use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track each of these elements in different columns. Clearly, my little Excel approach wouldn't work as the company scales.

This same tool can be used by all of your managers throughout the organization as a way to help drive accountability all the way from top to bottom.

You can even use this same tool to help manage any relationship you have, say with vendors or customers, to help ensure that you and your team are delivering on what you committed to or, at the very least, alert people to potential missed commitments before they happen.

One word of caution: I would recommend NOT using this tool when it comes to managing a relationship with a spouse, significant other, or family members. Somehow, they don't take to the idea of an action register the way people do at work! This sage advice comes from some personal experience.

Get started today with a simple list of goals, target dates and ownership. The key is to use it regularly and get some amazing results. In the office, starting an action register is a simple and effective tool for building the kind of accountability to commitments that every great organization thrives on.