Building Career Accountability

May 31, 2016

“I must do something” always solves more problems than
“Something must be done” – Anon
Accountability is a funny thing. Some people crave it, some avoid it and some simply have no idea what to do with it.

Yet personal accountability is such an enormously powerful trait that can really distinguish you from your peers and the crowd you run with. The days of having a job for life are now long gone. Maintaining relevance to your employer, your network and you industry is now a critical key to future-proofing your career; and the fastest way to remain relevant is to be accountable for what it is that you do. Accountable for the tasks you are required to do and accountable for the way in which you do it.

Todd Herman offers a great definition of personal accountability that expands on the traditional one of simply being responsible, to include: ‘the preparedness to answer…. for the outcomes resulting from your choices, behaviours and actions”.

Making a commitment to own your performance, your decisions, behaviours, successes and mistakes not only sets you apart but it elevates your career value to new levels. Your performance improves, your relationships are strengthened, your reputation is elevated and you attract new opportunities. It’s a massive WIN!

When you made the decision to work for your employer, you invariably signed a formal contract that outlined all the responsibilities and tasks you committed to and what you would receive in return. You also though in effect agreed to an unwritten contract where you agreed to take personal responsibility for delivering work to the highest standard and best of your ability – and not just enough to scrape by. Turning in the bare minimum translates to mediocrity, average and non-descript. It also says to those around you that you don’t value what you do so why should they.

As individuals when you turn up to work and focus on delivering excellence to the organisation you work for, your clients and customers, your colleagues, you make yourself indispensable. When you show up and expect everyone else to prop you up, blame others when things go wrong, act entitled, you run the enormous risk of becoming redundant. It is worth remembering that it is the company that owns the job, you own your career.

As leaders our challenge is to create cultures where people want and choose to be accountable. Where they don’t need to be held accountable by others because they already hold themselves to their responsibilities and behaviours. Where they crave accountability because it’s where the good stuff happens – for both them personally and the organisation at large.

So what are the key elements of accountability?

  1. Transparency: Be as open as possible about your choices, motivations, actions and outcomes. Nothing engenders more trust and collaboration than open, honest communication.
  2. Participation: Actively engaging with those that are impacted by your choices and decisions is not only a part of being accountable but it is also a powerful demonstration of what and why you value what you do.
  3. Reflection & Deliberation: Once you have actively engaged with those who are key stakeholders, we are able to validate the pathway that we are heading in. Opening up the channels of communication to listen, reflect and re-evaluate will ensure that the choices and actions you take are relevant and impactful.
  4. Response: Rarely do we sail in a straight line. The ability to adapt how and what we do to meet the demands and requirements of our role requires is critical if we are to deliver lasting outcomes.

Taking personal accountability for your career isn’t just about ensuring you have a pay check at the end of the month or a bonus at the end of the quarter. It is about creating lasting value for both yourself and your business. It is about creating choices and pathways for transition.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.