In my decades of learning and development experience I truly understand that adults are basically overgrown five year olds. I was reminded of this fact by a group that brought fake mustaches for everyone to wear who was late getting back to class after breaks. When the first person arrived late it was fun to watch what happened. The room went silent, the mustaches was handed to the late person, they put it on and everyone had a hardy chuckle. From then on the group knew that being silly and accountable worked well together.
Accountability truly works when there are consequences to not being accountable. When we think of consequences we think of punishments that are painful or harsh. What if instead we made accountability fun? When we shift our thinking and make the journey to cohesiveness fun and silly it has just as much power, almost more. Tapping into the child in each of us, provides a comic relief and allows people to acknowledge the mistake without making it a punishment. This somehow changes the dynamic within the group. It is suddenly a safe place to fail or make a mistake even though the group has established the way the mistake or failure will be handled.
There are people who would never put on a fake mustache, so they are sure to arrive on time. They have no desire to be seen as silly, There are those who forget and end up wearing one, then there are those who actively arrive late in order to put on the mustache and have a little silly fun in a business setting. No matter how people react to wearing a mustache, it works. Having it happen to them or laughing when it happens to others, either way the simple idea translates and reinforces the concept of being accountable.
Most people want to be excellent at what they do. The truly great ones take their work seriously but not themselves. They have the ability to laugh at themselves first which invites others to laugh with them, not just at them. When the leader follows the agreed upon guidelines – putting on a fake mustache when you are late – the group understands that accountability applies to everyone AND that the leader practices what they preach.
Next time you want people to agree on a rule or guideline try a fun one. Be silly, let people laugh, tap into the child within. Everyone gets the point, every has a chance to laugh, and everyone wants to come back to the environment where work is enjoyable and accountable. All it takes is a couple fake mustaches and a willingness to laugh.