Five Basic Responses That Will Improve Accountability – Guaranteed

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Sep 5, 2014

It crossed my mind once or twice that my life would be much improved if I’d simply take a vow of silence.

In fact, I once said to a good friend, “I think I’m going to take a vow of silence. I’ll only speak when spoken to and avoid offering any opinion, suggestion, or comment.”

“You’re crazy,” my friend snorted disdainfully.

She continued. “I mean, I think you would get in less trouble if you stopped talking. But you’ll never be able to pull it off.”

When words failed me …

My good friend was also wise. My word diet failed.

That was 10 years ago.

So imagine my delight when I read How the 5 Basic Responses’ Can Improve Accountability in Your Company in the Philadelphia Business Journal.

“Whoa!” I thought. “Maybe I’ve finally found the answer to all my problems! If I can train myself to give five basic responses, no matter who’s asking what, who knows how my life could change!”

I wasn’t that interested in the accountability part — I just wanted to learn five pat answers to any question so I could stop getting in trouble.

5 answers to improve accountability

The author of the article, Ingar Grev, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and holds an MS and MBA from the University of Maryland. The five responses are culled from his Navy days, and they are:

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Aye-Aye. (I understand your instructions, and I will do as you directed.)
  • No excuse. (I screwed up, and I’ll fix it.)
  • I’ll find out.

Grev’s premise is that these brief responses can increase accountability in organizations because they’re simple, direct, clear, and demand the speaker’ownership.

A defense against crazy co-workers

I like these answers as a defense against crazy-making bosses and co-workers who say nutso things and then stare at you waiting for a reaction. (I hate that.)

But I’m thinking these could work as intended, too, because answering:

  • Yes;
  • No;
  • Aye-Aye;
  • No excuse; and,
  • I’ll find out

… also prevents the need for conversation that start with:

See, what had happened was …” or “Well …” or “I don’t know. What do you think?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Aye-Aye.
  • No excuse.
  • I’ll find out.

That’s all. Cut the crap and cut the angst.

I’m going to try it.