The car was packed, the children were seat belted in, the gas tank was full and we were off to our vacation at a rental in the Lake Tahoe area. We were looking forward to meeting up with family for a week of updates, good food and play. Well over an hour into the drive and just past the Salt Flats, my husband erupted with a Homer Simpson…”Doh!” and then began self-flagellation as he beat the steering wheel chanting “Dang it! I can’t believe I did that! Darn it!” The girls and I were suddenly alert and asking “What?, What?!, What’s wrong?”
“I left the key to the rental house on the counter in the kitchen. When we get there we won’t be able to get in.” Well that’s a bummer. When you get some place you are excited to get to and can’t get in when you arrive sucks, but easily solved right?
“Just call the property manager and find out where we can get another key.” Not so simple.
“That’s just it,” my husband said. “They mail the key with a note in big letters DON’T FORGET OR LOSE THE KEY, WE ARE NOT EASY TO REACH AND GETTING ANOTHER IF YOU FORGET THIS ONE IS DIFFICULT IF WE ARE OUT OF TOWN OR YOU HAVE TO COME GET IT. WE DON’T LIVE CLOSE BY AND WE DON’T BRING ONE TO YOU.”
Oh. More head banging.
“I can see it right on the counter where I left it,” he said. At this point asking “Why did you leave it?” would be a bad move. We’ve all done something similar…probably distracted for a few seconds and didn’t get back on track.
Obvious solution, turn back and get the key adding about 3 hours to the 10-plus hour drive. No…no…no…no…no. My husband is clear, that is not going to happen. Have a neighbor go in the house and overnight the key. Neighbor with our key is on vacation. Call the rental number and see if we can tell them now on the off chance they will have a solution, bring us the key or get the key from them on the way in. No answer; not even voicemail.
We drive on. On the one hand we are getting closer to our destination, so moving forward feels good. We did not want to go back even though that would have added certainty we could get in once at the destination.
There are so many parallels to this story in business. You are working with a group and think the destination is clear when someone pipes up that although we know where we are going on this project, “We left something on the counter!” Usually that “something” is key and that key thing is ACCOUNTABILITY.
At the start of every project it’s critical to know who has packed Accountability for the trip. If “we all did” that usually means none of us did. “I thought you had the accountability, I thought you did!”
My husband made it a point to clarify he would own having the key and dealing with the vacation rental owner. “OK,” I thought to myself, “That’s great, it’s out of my head and off my plate.” Role clarity, you own that. But just as a pilot would never skip the checklist and the co-pilot wouldn’t allow it if she tried, a mindset of accountability requires the same. This is the mindset of every individual on a high performance team.
“I have 100% and you have 100% and our roles are different. Let’s be back-up and support for each other.”
A checklist for taking off that includes who has packed the Accountability on projects and goal completion isn’t “checking on” it is supporting up front. Powerful.
My husband and I are about to leave on another trip, this time, out of the country. We learned from that “Doh!” moment many years ago and keep accountability packed in our mindset. We both own the result of “a fantastic time” with as many of the tasks required for this result checked off and owned up front. Accountability is a journey, not the destination. Don’t forget accountability on your daily journey to complete tasks or projects with others.