What a good preacher can teach us about accountability…

iPads, Insomnia, and Podcasts…

Sometimes, when I have trouble sleeping, I will find a good podcast or ‘sirius talk’ channel that looks interesting, and let the drone of the narrator “read me to sleep”.

I don’t know what it is about “talk radio” or short podcast subjects that do the trick for me (instead of music, for example), because some of the topics are really interesting and engaging and would keep most normal people “awake” rather then send them off to sleep. But not for me. 30 Minutes into one of these podcasts or talk shows, and I’m out like a light.

Who Knows. This phenomena probably has to do more with our childhoods, when we were “put to sleep” by our parents reading us  a good story book, than it does the level of topical ‘engagement’ of the content itself. But that’s a subject for another day, or perhaps my therapist.

Now, sometimes when you download a podcast, there is not too much background available on the host, but that usually doesn’t bother me because the vast majority of them on itunes are pretty much free. So, if it’s a bad one, so be it- it’s still usually enough to put me to sleep through the sheer value of their mindless droning. Last night could have been one of those nights.

Last night, however was about the content. I found a podcast dealing with the topic of “personal change”, something near and dear to me because so much of the consulting work I do involves cultural alignment, behavioral change and leadership skills. Invariably, all of those are in some way dependent on PERSONAL change, often of significant magnitude.

Rapture, repentance, and judgment day…

As the podcast opened,however, it was clear that I was in for a surprise. While the topic was “personal change” (which we all know can span a broad array of angles), this one had what one might call a “spiritual bent” to it, which clearly was not evident by the podcast icon and description.

Although it was not what I was expecting, I did listen on. After all, who can’t resist a little advice from a good “preacher man”!

As I am fading off to sleep amidst his messages of raptures, repentance and judgments, the word “ACCOUNTABILITY” popped out of my ear buds like a shot in the dark. And while it probably was his intention to pique my interest will all of his other words of prophetic wisdom, it was the word “accountability ” that hooked me.

Now, if God is reading this, I don’t mean to say that I didn’t internalize ALL of the other parts of the sermon. I LISTENED TO ALL OF IT!!!” It’s just that the subject of accountability is one that I have been working with many of my clients on currently, and so the mere mention of the topic grabbed my attention just A LITTLE more than the “end of days” stuff. But that was for one instant, until I returned to the rest of the sermon, at which point I paid perfect attention. (Ok- bases covered with God- check.)

What “The Preacher” says about accountability…

Good preachers have a few things in common. One, they are charismatic speakers. Two, they are usually great storytellers. And three, they have an uncanny ability to translate complex principles into very simple messages. So what was his simple message on the subject of accountability? Just tell someone!!

That’s right, tell someone. Such a simple act. Yet such powerful implications. Here was his four step process to accountability:

  • Make a decision to make a commitment
  • Set a goal
  • Write it down
  • And tell someone

Now before you conclude that it’s not that simple (and I am not suggesting it is), just think about this in various facets of your personal, spiritual and work life. Heck, think about something as simple as exercise and weight loss (yet another topic close to my heart- literally!). I know for me, the only time I take that seriously is when I do in fact ‘tell someone’. I don’t know exactly why that works, but it does. Probably, it has something to do with someone else “watching”. Or perhaps it is because you feel a commitment beyond just yourself. Whatever the reason, I find that it works.

It also works in other areas of my life. When I commit something verbally to my kids, it means more than just a superficial personal “intent”. Same with my spouse. And truth be told, as a “good Catholic” (subject to debate, I suppose), when I make a confession to a priest, I take the commitment of “doing better next time” more to heart, than if I just made that same commitment to myself in passing.

I think”writing it down” certainly helps too, since it is now part  of “recorded history”, and something you can go back to and look at. It becomes tangible.

Livin’ “The Gospel” in business!!!

Even if it’s just inside your own sandbox…

As I think about this in a business context, specifically with respect to performance improvement, it all makes sense, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times those “personal change “rock-stars” (from Carnegie  to Covey) have preached these same principles in their books on ‘achieving success’, ‘positive thinking’, and the broad array of topics they wax so eloquently on. And no doubt, every consultant (including your’s truly) has developed some methodology for driving accountability and change that include these basic four steps in some way, shape, or form.

I know many of you are working on driving accountability into your business cultures, and have one point or another, been involved in that type of multi step, multi phase, “journey of change” that was no doubt complex. And for many of you, some level of reward was received from those efforts. Change management programs do work, and with good leadership commitment, can really mobilize and cement long term improvements to a results oriented and highly accountable culture across the business.

But there are other times, when a manager just wants to simply motivate an employee, change the attitude of a team member, or the shift culture within a small workgroup. But instead of moving ahead in their little “patch of turf”, they often get caught up in the narrative of “it’s all about leadership” and the inability to change things from within unless “the top dogs” are behind it. That’s unfortunate, because change can happen in small pieces if the managers of those parts of the business understand the simple behaviors required to catalyze that change.

So before you conclude that reaching an new or ambitious goal is not achievable with your current team and cultural environment, give the preacher man a chance, and try out his 4 steps. Make the commitment. Set a goal. Write it down. And tell someone.

Then come back in a few weeks and see if anything has changed. You might surprise yourself!

-b

Author: Bob Champagne is Managing Partner of onVector Consulting Group, a privately held international management consulting organization specializing in the design and deployment of Performance Management tools, systems, and solutions. Bob has over 25 years of Performance Management experience and has consulted with hundreds of companies across numerous industries and geographies. Bob can be contacted at bob.champagne@onvectorconsulting.com

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