December 29th, 2011 by Rebekah Smith
Just last week I listened to a webinar on accountability. Like many businesses, we talk a lot about accountability, discussion such as…how to build a culture of accountability, how to improve accountability, how to stay accountable, how to “hold someone accountable”, etc. And personally, I think it is a great thing that as a firm we keep accountability in the forefront and focus on ways to improve individually and as a firm. In today’s world, where we are all stretched extra thin, be it because of work commitments or personal commitments or a combination of both, we need to know that when someone says they are going to do something, they will follow through and do it in a timely manner. Clients and coworkers need to trust that when I say I am going to do something, they can count on me to follow through and do it. Timely.
Timely you say? See that’s the part of accountability that I personally find the hardest to manage. Partially because I am managing so much (who isn’t you say!?). There are days where I feel like I am an accounting emergency room. I am just trying to triage problems, assess their severity and deal with the life threatening ones first (well not life threatening, let’s be honest, accounting is not a life and death matter…most of the time). The webinar speaker said something which was a light bulb moment for me (or as Oprah says an Aha moment). The speaker challenged the listeners:
When you are given a new task, ask yourself, can I do this and get it out of the way right now AND if you cannot, when is the soonest you can get it done? (Implicit in that question is the assumption that you can do it to the best of your ability if you do it now, not that you can just do it to check it off your list).
That is such a revolutionary way of thinking. What’s the SOONEST I can get to this and then schedule your work that way. Most people are deadline driven (myself included) and schedule their days and workflow according to those deadlines. Let me give you an example…we have quarterly performance reviews due next week. I typically put those in my calendar with a day or two reminder before so I don’t forget. And those reminders are invaluable, I rarely miss a deadline but when would you guess I complete that task? You guessed it, a day or two before it is due when the reminder finally goes off! By that time, that might not be the best time for me. That might not be the time when I could give the task the best quality attention. Now, what if instead of scheduling backwards from the deadline I looked for the soonest time in my schedule that I COULD do those tasks regardless of its proximity to the deadline? What a different way of thinking.
At a time of year when everyone is making resolutions for the new year, I found inspiration in this webinar and decided that this thought philosophy is my New Year’s resolution. Because unlike previous years, rather than waiting until January 1 to make my resolutions.I’m starting now.
What are your New Year’s resolutions?