One of the parents whom I tutor was sharing their thought process of how to get their kids accountable for their improvement in studies.
She mentioned that, " Oh I continually remind them that they need to study more, practice more problems. I cajole them about getting it done."
I responded back to her, "How is the reminding and cajoling working out for you so far?". "Despite all my efforts, it hasn't worked at all, " she responded.
I told her, "Maybe that's because you really aren't helping him accountable. Instead of reminding him, why not make some time and work some problems with him."
We often think we are holding people accountable when are doing nothing more than requesting, pleading, begging and sometimes demanding performance. As the instance illustrates, these approaches aren't very successful. We need to help people be accountable rather than holding them accountable. We need to be active participants in their change and improvement. Think about it.
What is the Goal?
Helping people be accountable is more than identifying what they need to do; it is about clarifying what needs to be accomplished. Clear outcomes can often be achieved several different ways. We tend to be too rigid about the means and completely miss the end.
We need to structure your efforts around the end goal, and involve the person you're working with in determining the how. It is about giving them an active role in creating the process which will engage them and give them the sense of ownership.
When I read "Magic of Thinking Big", the author Schwartz always mentions that the people are not motivated by a goal; they are motivated by the reasons for achieving a goal. If I can't see a benefit or a negative consequence to be avoided, why would I even exert any effort to change?
Motivation is usually all about hope of good news or avoidance of bad news. To help someone be accountable, we have to unpack the consequences of a change or lack thereof. The important thing is to find reasons that are worthwhile to them and not just to you.
Sometimes it helps to sit down with them to identify their roadblocks. I am not suggesting to plan for them which defeats the purpose. I am suggesting to work with them which can increase the effectiveness.
We also need to differentiate between excuse and an explanation. When I sit down with a student to understand the reason for his/her grade. An explanation is a statement of fact about what happened. An explanation is "this is what happened, and why". An excuse is "this is what happened, and why it wasn't my fault". If somebody is in the habit of making excuses in their routine, it is quite unlikely that they will take ownership of where they are at.
I love hearing to entrepreneur Brad Duncan who often says, "Your action speaks so loud that I don't hear a word you are saying." To help somebody become accountable, we have to show it by action, be the person they feel worthy of following and then help them accomplish their goals. A good teacher/leader always creates the pull which makes the student to do the right thing.