Things fall through the cracks. They just do. Not often. But they do.

Sometimes it’s because we have too much on our plates. Sometimes, an emergency or a rush job came up, and our mind is focused on that.  But sometimes, everything is going along smoothly, and things still fall through the cracks, because everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job.

As a recovering control freak, I used to be the one who made sure that everything got done. To me, the path of least resistance was for me to do it.

But as a consultant, that’s the very worst thing I could do. My job is to let YOU do it; it’s YOUR job to take responsibility and figure out how to do it yourself, so eventually, you don’t need me.

So what do I do? I make sure you end your meetings affirming who is doing what, by when.

Whether it’s a nine month long strategic planning project, a one day planning retreat, or any meeting in which a decision is made, they all end the same way:

Who is doing what? By when? How will you know it’s done?

I was working with one multi-faceted organization whose executive director had announced he was retiring in two years. Despite general dismay, after four months the board had not yet formulated a plan for finding his successor.  I was asked to get them started.

At a full day retreat, we spent the morning envisioning the future of the organization and the CEO qualities that would help that future become reality. Then, over lunch, I let it ‘slip’ about being a recovering control freak. Through general laughter, I told them that the way I managed it was by making sure THEY knew what they were going to do, and how they were going to do it.

That afternoon, we mapped out how they would go about finding a successor: what research they would need, what data they would want, what the board, staff, and other constituents would need. Then, about an hour before adjourning,  I reminded them of my ‘recovering control freak’ statement, and asked:

“Now that you’ve decided what you’re going to do, who is going to be responsible for making sure it gets done?

“You don’t have to be the one that does it, but you’re the one who stays on top of it, and makes sure it’s accomplished.

“Who’s job is it?”

Then, when that person self-identified, the next question was,

“Great! By when? When will this goal be completed?”

and then,

“When will you have that first committee meeting? When will you have the first progress report to the board?”

Those milestones were entered into the plan, and the Board Chair keeps track of who is doing what.  The milestones give the entire board an opportunity to reflect on whether the progress needs to be speeded up or the goals amended.

By coaching the Board and Staff on building their own accountability into their plans, I satisfy my control freak tendencies, and enable the excellent members of the leadership team to step up.

A win-win result all around.