There is an accountability model attributed to Stephen Covey that says if you write someone a “parking ticket” you need to let them know about it. Put in practice, this means that if you see an employee (or child or anyone else) doing something that is counter to your expectation, instead of just making a mental note of it (writing a parking ticket), you need to tell them.

If you see one of your staff come in 10 minutes late, instead of just noting that they were late, you need to let them know that you noticed and that the behavior is not acceptable. If you are displeased at an employee’s presentation, you need to let them know about your disappointment rather than just letting it go. If your child failed to wipe their feet before entering your house, you need to call them on it rather than quietly sweeping it up.

In the literal sense, if a person accumulates enough parking tickets without paying them, the traffic division will put a boot immobilizer on the car because of the ongoing nature of the offenses. In the metaphorical sense, Covey notes that what happens is that we write these mental tickets and eventually it gets to the point where – in our minds – the other person has accumulated enough parking tickets that it warrants putting on an immobilizer. The problem comes in when we don’t tell the person about the ongoing collection of tickets that they are getting, thus ambushing them by our extreme reaction without sufficient warning.

Surprises may be a good thing for birthdays, engagements or celebratory occasions, but they are lousy in an evaluation context. If you see behavior with which you are unhappy, have the courtesy and respect to let the person know while it is still minor. One ticket is not hard to rectify, but a boot is quite difficult to remove.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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