How Accountability Stops Chinese Water Torture
You can’t prove that dripping water on someone’s forehead eventually drives them insane without risking someone’s sanity. But the Myth Busters verified the power of Chinese Water Torture.
The stress of nagging issues, like dripping faucets, drives managers crazy.
I bet something’s drilling into your head right now.
Drip drip drip:
Is that customer issue resolved? Drip!
Who took care of …? What about…? Drip! Drip!!
You care and the buck stops with you. Drip!
Dripping concerns drive managers to distraction.
Accountability stops Chinese Water Torture:
Accountability helps you sleep at night.
3 questions to accountability:
#1. What happened?
The “what happened” question is answered simply. “We missed our deadline.” Learn to avoid nuts and bolts when dealing with competent people.
You may need to run interference, but trust competent people to solve their own issues.
Don’t ask “why questions.”
“Why did you miss your deadline?” invites blaming and excuse-making.
Stop all conversations when you hear excuses.
Try saying, “Oh, I should have asked, what’s the status of this issue?”
Tip: “The machine broke,” is an explanation, not an excuse.
#2. What’s your plan?
Don’t drop into the weeds with experienced managers. The more detail you hear, the more worry you take on.
“I’m counting on you,” expresses confidence when relationships are strong and team members are competent.
Trust eases worry.
You can’t control every contingency, but you can learn to trust reliable people.
Tip: When track records aren’t established, dig into details.
#3. When will you let me know it’s resolved?
Make an appointment for the resolution report. If they don’t show up, go to their office.
Let people know that you always follow-up.
Issues you let slide keep you up at night.
Tip: Don’t set deadlines at the end of the day. How will you follow-up when someone doesn’t follow-through if it’s the end of day?
How might managers deal with dripping issues?
What shouldn’t managers do with dripping issues?
10 Tips for Getting Your Chaotic Project Back on Track (Liquid Planner) — send this link to someone that needs it.
Do This When the Ball Gets Dropped — and Avoid Repeats (Forbes)
Top Four Reasons You’re not Sleeping Through the Night (Harvard Health Publication)
Why? is usually the first question out of my mouth (if it’s a genuine crisis – not a run of the mill issue) …
and I turn on my deep listening faculties …
because, in addition to evading blame and responsibility – who’s doing that? who’s not? –
people tend to answer why questions with how answers. And therein lies the truth.
The drip torture can be very effective, but the pain needs to be shared – get everyone (line staff, consultants, management) into the room at the same time, take the blame up front (we’re here to figure out what I screwed up somehow), and insist on a coherent answer (we’re not leaving til I get it). It’s amazing what people will say in an environment where rumors can’t get started because there’s no blame to fear.
I may not sleep well for a couple of nights, but I sleep real well once it is properly sorted.
Thanks Rurbane. You aren’t alone in your preference for why questions. I’m glad it serves you well.
I find why questions distract from what issues. I’m interested in what happened. Why questions often carry an accusatory tone.
In any case, best wishes.
Why answers are strategic in nature; I will take the blame for my people if they can’t answer to the strategy … when they answer wirh tactical/how answers, they become accountable for their own issues … works kinda neatly, huh?😁
Tell us more about the tip to not set deadlines for the end of the day. This has me curious.
Thanks Macisaac. Important work should be done during the “best” time of day – when people are at their best. Most of us are better in the morning. Afternoon is often our least productive time.
The other problem with scheduling important work at the end of day is you don’t have a buffer if something goes wrong. In that case, the issue goes home with you. Better to deal with it at work.
At the very least, schedule follow-up meetings right after lunch. The later in the day, the more likely the meeting will be interrupted or postponed.