So my daughter came home from high school and told me she paid someone to write here in-class essay for her. Apparently it is quite common for students to get essay and assignment help from others instead of doing it themselves.

My first thought was where did she get the money, and my next was, you did what!

Don’t you hate those moments as a parent when your child does something and you’re not sure what you should say next? I decided to hold off on the lecture and first try to help here see things logically, but it took my a while to comprehend what I was hearing. I’d heard stories from parents who’s kids had used sites like edupeet to help them with their work, but I never thought that I would become one of them parents. Anyway, I tried to approach things with a level headed approach.

“So you paid someone to write your essay. But what if that person is not as smart as you, and you end up with a worse grade?”

I know right, perfect rebuttal. Feel free to steal it.

But what she said next floored me, because it carries an important truth about human motivation and leadership. In fact, if you are failing to do this one thing, it could be the reason why your employees are not performing at their best, owning their work, or being as productive as they could be.

Me with the guilty party in Times Square.

“So you paid someone to write your essay. But what if that person is not as smart as you, and you end up with a worse grade?” I asked.

“Well, my teacher doesn’t even read them so what’s the point.” She said.

“What do you mean your teacher doesn’t read them? How would you know” I asked.

“Because one time I wrote a couple of paragraphs and then I just started writing, ‘You don’t even read this,’ over and over for half a page. When he handed our papers back I got 100%.”

OK all you parental geniuses out there. What do you say to that? And what would you do if you found out your child used paper writing services to keep on top of work?

My daughter had found a crack in the system and decided to exploit it. Her rational was that if the teacher was not going to even read what she wrote then why do it. It’s pointless. While she failed to make the connection that writing the essay was good for her development, she highlights what happens when accountability is done incorrectly.

When you think about it, essays, tests and quizzes are all designed to be accountability points. They force us to make sure we know the material. Accountability is an effective tool to drive behavior, especially when it comes to mundane or mindless tasks. But it has to be done correctly. Here are two simple rules to consider when implementing accountability:

Use Accountability Sparingly.

You can’t hold your staff accountable for everything. If you do, you’ll exhaust yourself, and them because let’s face it, accountability also means having those tough conversations when someone doesn’t do what they were supposed to.

Also, if you hold people accountable for too many things, you end up communicating that everything is important, which means nothing is.

Accountability is an external motivator that actually has the power to destroy intrinsic motivation. It’s not the best way to motivate but at times it is necessary. Save accountability for only the most important things that must happen in order for your organization to be successful.

When You Use Accountability, Follow Through on Consequences.

If you decide to hold someone accountable then be prepared to administer consequences. My daughter should have received an ‘F’ for her bold stunt on her essay, but because the teacher never read her cheeky remarks, she got away with it and decided to outsource her work from then on. In other words, the accountability was no longer an effective motivator.

Accountability draws its power from consequences. Whether it’s a reprimand, or simply a feeling that we’re letting our team down because we’re not pulling our weight, the potential pain for not getting something done, compels us.

So if you are going to hold someone accountable for something, be sure to outline clearly what you need them to do, and also exactly what the consequences are for not hitting the target. Clarity saves everyone a lot of heartache. Then, you MUST pull the trigger on the consequences even if it’s uncomfortable. Because if you don’t, you effectively nullify the process and you end up hurting motivation instead of helping it.

Questions to ponder:

  1. Do you have accountability on areas that are not that important to the success of your organization? If so, think about getting rid of it there and moving it to the areas that really count.
  2. If you have accountability in place, is it clear, and are you following through on consequences?

Please forward this to a manager you know because it may help them out.