Behavior change is hard. I see this every day from personal experience, and the effort made by my executive coaching clients. During the course of the coaching engagement, my clients choose certain behaviors that they want to practice more of to grow in their leadership agility and help them achieve their coaching goals. They pick the smallest behavior changes that will help them create the biggest impact to empower their goals.
A great way for leaders to practice accountability is to make it a daily ritual. This practice is from Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book called Triggers. The #1 executive coach pays someone to call him every morning and ask him 32 questions that help him to be accountable to be the person he wants to be. I decided to give myself the challenge of asking myself ten accountability questions every morning.
Success on the most important goals we set for ourselves involve the long game – practices that we practice every day until they become habits, and eventually part of our very identity, so we can create lasting change. Here are the questions Marshall Goldsmith recommends.
Marshall Goldsmith’s Six Daily Questions
In his book, Marshall Goldsmith describes the six questions he recommends for all leaders. The focus is to hold yourself accountable to doing your best. Did I do my best to:
- Set clear goals?
- Make progress for achieving my goals?
- Find meaning?
- Be happy?
- Build positive relationships?
- Be fully engaged?
My Ten Questions
I recommend you frame your questions based on your own goals and values. Here are my ten questions. They change from time to time based on what’s most important at that time and what I’m working on for my own growth. I’ve created a simple excel spreadsheet. Each day I give myself a score from one to ten on each question as a way to measure how well I feel I did on each question. They are based on the daily practices make me most effective, and who I want to be as a leader. I ask myself “Did I do my best to”:
- Make healthy exercise, food, and sleep choices? I know that feeling good in my physical health goes a long way in impacting my positive energy and stress levels. This in turn impacts my ability to coach and lead effectively.
- Appreciate the good in myself, others, and situations? There is research on the importance of gratitude in overall well-being and leadership. Focus on the positive helps me have greater patience with myself and others (and the other drivers on the road really appreciate it I’m sure!). I keep a gratitude journal.
- Write and progress my three most important goals for the day? This is critical for me to make sure I am sitting down to think and plan for the day and stay focused on the most important priorities.
- Build positive relationships? I sometimes struggle with this because it is broad. For me, this is about approaching each encounter with another person with an open and appreciative mind.
- Practice courage? In leadership, courage is an important attribute. It helps us to lead from authenticity, have the difficult conversations that we need to have, and make decisions that may not always be popular, but are the right thing to do. In my book, Wired for Authenticity, one of the seven practices of authenticity is “Face The Dragon”. I write about proven ways to overcome fear and practice courage. Courage is a value that is important to me, and it is necessary for the work that I do with my coaching clients and stakeholders in the coaching process.
- Find meaning? Meaning can be found every day in the small actions we take. In my journal I simply ask myself, “what was meaningful today?” It’s a great way to reconnect with the good during the day and over time it helps me discover purpose and values important to me.
- Stay centered in the face of challenging situations? Most of us experience stress in the workplace or at home and this triggers behaviors where we derail ourselves. For me, it is critical to become aware of when a triggering situation is presenting itself, and to take a deep breath to center myself. It creates the conditions for me to respond rather than react.
- Practice empathy? Empathy is one of the core skills in emotional intelligence. I find that I bring empathy to my coaching conversations but don’t always practice this in my personal relationships. I want to grow more in this area.
- Practice vulnerability? Influencing others is very hard without connecting with them. As Brene Brown’s famous TEDxTalk which has had over 27 million views indicates, vulnerability is a core driver of connection with others. For me, vulnerability in leadership is about speaking what’s true for you (without blaming others), asking others for help, taking ownership and apologizing when you’ve made a mistake. My ability to be vulnerable myself role-models this behavior for my coaching clients because their ability to be vulnerable empowers the coaching process.
- Act in alignment with my values? As a leader, our impact comes not just from what we do, but from who we are – our character. Can we be trusted? Do we act with integrity? The behavior of leaders has tremendous impact on teams and culture. This is a way for me to hold myself accountable to living my life in alignment with my values.
There is power in asking “Did I do my best to…” according to Marshall Goldsmith. It recognizes your effort, and recognizes that your best effort may vary from day to day and the fruits of these efforts may vary as well. The key that makes this exercise powerful is to stay with it for at least 21 days and not get discouraged. I have found that asking myself these questions every day actually makes me more conscious of the choices I am making during the day. It helps me pause and ask myself, whether I will stretch to make my commitment. Our power lies in that pause.
What are the most important questions you will ask yourself every day to stay on track with your coaching goals? I welcome you to share your questions with our community and/or find an accountability partner in this exercise for yourself. I welcome you to share this with your team as a great way to build individual and shared accountability.