Being accountable

28 12 2011

photo credit Ethan Bloch

Sadly, we aren’t very good at being accountable to ourselves.

Oh, we start each New Year with the best of intentions. And then slowly – or sometimes quite quickly – it gets a bit harder, we break the resolution “just this once”. And next thing you know, it’s the next New Year’s Eve, and we’re making the same resolution agin. And this time we mean it, and we are really, really going to achieve it?

Sound familiar? No? Just me then?

Here are some secrets that Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig know that you should too.

The secret formula to their success is not some magic potion in their diet plans. It’s not some secret tool or chart they give you. The secret formula is being accountable to someone else.

You pay your money (that’s the committment) and then you have to turn up each week and get weighed and talk about how you have gone with your diet and exercise plan (that’s the accountability). And if you have fallen off the wagon, you confess AND MOVE ON. That’s right – falling off the wagon doesn’t mean the end of the goal achievement plan. You just brush is aside and get on with the plan, no excuses.

The study on goal setting by Gail Matthews from Dominican University demonstrated that those participants who made public committments to a friend were more likely to achieve their goals, and those who wrote weekly progress reports (accountability) were even more likely to achieve their goals.

Study on goal setting by Gail Matthews, PhD, Dominican University

So the question is – how do you set up this accountability, with someone who will hold you accountable? For weight loss programs, there are many options as discussed briefly above. Exercise accountability can be set up by hiring a personal trainer, or setting a regular meeting with a friend to exercise together (providing you don’t both make excuses for each other). Career or financial goals can be through an executive coach, smoking cessation might be with your doctor. Get your team together and set up the mechanisms – make yourself accountable for what you want to achieve!

This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths
Being Accountable

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The Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths

28 12 2011

I mentioned in a previous posting the Harvard Business School Study where a graduating class was asked whether they had written goals, then followed up ten years later. The source of this story seems to have been the book by Mark McCormack, What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School: Notes From A Street-Smart Executive. The details of the study are reported to be as follows:

The 1979 Harvard Business School Graduating Class were asked the following question: “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” 3% reported they had written goals and plans; 13% had goals, but not written down and 84 percent had no specific goals. The follow-up, ten years later showed that the 13% who had goals were earning an average twice as much as the 84% who did not have goals. And the 3% who had written goals and plans were earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together.

A pretty compelling case, wouldn’t you say? If only the story were true.

Like many urban myths, while there is truth in the sentiment – the moral of the story, if you will – the actual story is not true. This study was not conducted on the Harvard Business School Graduates. Nor was it conducted at Yale in 1953. Yale apparently gets a lot of questions about this and even have a response posted on their website.

Thankfully, Gail Matthews PhD from Dominican University has now done the study – and more . Her study looked at the benefits of having goals v writing the goals down v having an action plan v having an accountability mechanism (in this case, submitting a weekly report to a friend on progress). And the results all support what you would expect.

Study on goal setting by Gail Matthews, PhD, Dominican University

So the keys are:
1. be clear on your goals and write them down.
2. develop a plan on how you are going to achieve them.
3. Develop an accountability mechanism. This needs to be external to you – sadly we are not very good at keeping ourselves accountable, which is why the various weight-watching companies which require you to turn up weekly are all so successful.

This is part of a series on goal-setting. To read the other postings, click below.
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the journey as well as the goal
Being Accountable