If you made one commitment for a day to increase the accountability of those around you this is what it should be: Don’t check.
- Don’t check to see if someone was on time or late.
- Don’t check the grammar or spelling on someone’s work.
- Don’t check to see if the math was right on the spreadsheet that was turned in to you.
WHO WRITES YOUR PERFORMANCE EVALUATION? – YOU DO
If you’ve been in the habit of checking your subordinates work, of course you can’t just show up one day and not check. Let your employees know in the next staff meeting that you find yourself checking too much. And that every “check” you make affirms your lack of trust in their ability to check for themselves. Let them know that their finished work is a reflection of the skill and ability they are expected to have. If work unchecked by you runs into problems, they can own it via a performance write up for their performance evaluation folder.
So imagine saying from now on, if they provide their work to you, you won’t be checking it. With this declaration you open up possibility — the possibility that the people who work for you are fully capable human beings.
Now, are you ready to discover the truth?
I was talking to a business owner who told me the most important thing she recently did was explain her expectations to her staff. She also stopped checking their work using it only as they provided it. “It’s the hardest thing I have ever done. But I love how it feels to let go. You just have to let go to know. It does take time up front to explain fully and set expectations, but then they are off and running. It is freeing and terrifying all at once.”
The Straight Truth aligns with what this business owner told me. As I take the work I ask, with eye contact when possible, “Is this your best work? I am not going to check it.” It’s not a threat, it is a reminder; I trust you.
WHEN THE BAD WORK HITS THE FAN
Most of us won’t allow anything to pass by us without “checking” because we are control freaks. We are the ones who get in trouble from our boss or hear from the client if there is a mistake or problem. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can remove the buffer and have the person who did the work answer for it. This is different from the “throw someone under the bus” strategy. It is, in integrity saying, “You’re right, this is a mistake and I am accountable. To move on and make sure the problem is fixed I am going to directly involve the person I trust to do the work.”
LIVE AND LEARN
Involving the perpetrator of a mistake in the conversation with the boss or client is powerful. They are not in trouble; they are cared about and for. The message is that I care enough about you to do the hard thing. Protecting you like you are a child is insulting. Involving you and letting you see the impact of a mistake helps you learn. Making it all better for you does not make me a boss, it makes me complicit in your inability to do your best possible work; to be your best self.
DON’T BE AN ACCOUNTABILITY FOOL
This use of the “don’t check” strategy in order to grow trust must be used with integrity. When we doubt someone’s skill and a lack of checking can mean harm to someone, then do the right thing. Address skill problems, don’t ignore them or make up for them.
Sure it’s a fine line sometimes, a judgment call. But that is what you are paid for, to use your judgment and skill. Stay out of where fools rush in.