We’ve all played games of accountability tag in the office before. Like that time your manager asked your team to take care of a pressing item, and everyone assumed someone else would do it. And then, when it’s due, you’re all looking around the room like, “Oh, we just thought Keith or Jane or someone would handle it.”

So, whose fault is it when this happens (besides Keith)? It’s everyone’s fault, and yet, no one’s—that’s the problem.

Not only does a lack of accountability slow productivity in the office, but it can also lead to feelings of resentment on your team. And on a personal, more selfish level, it could be messing with your job performance and how you come across to your colleagues. Do you want to be the person contributing to problems or the person solving them?

Luckily, there’s a simple strategy to get over this office accountability hump: “WWDWBW?”

Mark Toro, Managing Partner and Chairman of North American Properties, recently explained that this acronym made accountability a critical part of his company’s culture. Whenever he’s at a meeting or session and someone throws an agenda item out there, his first question is, “Who will do what by when?”

By putting those six words on the table, Toro forces people to respond with specific answers. For example, it’s easy to say, “We’ll get a draft of that memo done soon.” But it’s better for a manager to respond with: “Jane will email you all a draft of the memo by Thursday at 6 PM.” Someone’s now accountable for what’s happening.

What if you’re not the manager, but you’re Jane? Well, the other great thing about applying the WWDWBW strategy is that you don’t have to be a supervisor to make it work. Even if you’re the lowest person on the office totem pole, you can take responsibility by answering “WWDWBW?” when it comes up. (Hint: The answer in this case involves you taking on the work.)

I’ll wrap things up with Toro’s best line: “There are only two types of people in the world. People who do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it, and people who don’t do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it.”

The question now is: Which type of person are you?


Photo of sticky notes courtesy of Shutterstock.