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Crucial Accountability

Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior

By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and David Maxfield
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Crucial Accountability by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and David Maxfield

Crucial Accountability (2004) tackles the often tricky issue of addressing broken promises and unmet expectations. The book shares tools and steps for holding friends, family, and colleagues accountable for their actions, and enabling them to fulfill commitments and meet future expectations.

Key idea 1 of 8

Choose the issue you care about most, and consider whether it should be addressed.

Consider this scenario: you’ve asked your boss for a well-deserved raise several times. Each time he’s promised to make it happen and each time he’s gone back on his word. 

Understandably, you’re frustrated. And this feeling intensifies when he singles you out in a meeting to ask that you stop nagging about the raise. When you privately approach him about this public berating, he scoffs that you’re wasting his time and walks off.

Not only has your boss repeatedly broken a commitment, but he’s also disrespected you in front of colleagues and dismissed your valid concerns. You strongly feel that he should be held accountable for his behavior, but where do you start?

The key message here is: Choose the issue you care about most, and consider whether it should be addressed. 

Like many things, accountability issues are rarely simple and straightforward. They tend to come in complicated bundles. Before holding an accountability discussion, it’s important to identify the various problems and decide which is most important to you. To do this, think CPRContent, Pattern, and Relationship.

Here’s an example: the first time a teenager comes home late, the content of breaking curfew is a problem. If she promises to stick to the rules but doesn’t, there’s an additional issue – a pattern of rule-breaking. Let’s say father and daughter discuss the pattern, and there’s a renewed commitment to the rule. But days later, she breaks curfew again. At this point, her father can’t trust her, which means the negative effect on their relationship is yet another problem.

In addition to considering the content, pattern, and relationship, we need to think of consequences and intentions. So, in our father-daughter scenario, the father could be upset about the potential consequences of staying out after curfew, which can be dangerous for a teenager. Alternatively, he might be frustrated by what he assumes are his daughter’s intentions – that she could be breaking the rules just to aggravate him. 

After listing all the associated problems and pinpointing what matters most, you’re ready to schedule a chat, right? Well, not quite. You need to decide if the issue actually warrants a conversation.

There are many clues that your accountability issue should be addressed. If you feel hostile towards the other person, you should definitely bring the issue up. Ditto if your conscience is nagging you. But what if you’re avoiding the conversation because you feel helpless, or fear making things worse? This too is an indication that you should speak up – and the following blinks will explain exactly how.

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