Personal accountability in the things you do at work can encompass everything from employees being accountable to and making themselves indispensable, to managers and people in leadership roles showing personal accountability in order to foster an environment of accountability in the office with their employees.
If you are not in a management role, demonstrating accountability at work will prove that you are a valuable asset to the company and it will make you an indispensable commodity.
If you are a manager or in a management position, displaying personal accountability will help build a culture of accountability in your company.
Your employees will watch as you create an acceptance and understanding of accountability, and will more than likely follow your actions. Knowing that personal accountability is something that even the management is responsible for will help employees feel balanced and bonded through that shared responsibility.
What is Personal Accountability?
Management consultant Todd Herman defined personal accountability as “being willing to answer … for the outcomes resulting from your choices, behaviours, and actions.”
When you’re personally accountable, you take ownership of situations that you’re involved in. You see them through, and you take responsibility for what happens – good or bad. You don’t blame others if things go wrong. Instead, you do your best to make things right.
In the workplace, accountability can go beyond your own tasks. For example, you may be held accountable for the actions of your team. Sometimes it can be tough to take personal accountability. However, you’ll find that it offers many advantages.
First, you’re likely to have healthier relationships with your friends, family, and colleagues. A 2005 study found that children who were encouraged to take personal responsibility for their actions also had more positive social interactions.
Accountability also builds trust within teams and organizations, because people know that they can depend on each other. Leaders who are accountable are more likely to be trusted and respected, because people know that they will keep their word.
Personal accountability can save time and money, too. People who take responsibility for their actions speak up, and they look for solutions when there’s a problem. This not only prevents the situation getting worse, but it stop costs and delays from escalating.
Last, personal accountability can boost your chances of promotion. When you show senior colleagues that you’re dependable, you mark yourself out as someone with leadership potential.
Tips on how to be more accountable
Personal accountability isn’t a trait that people are born with, it’s a way of living that you can learn. Use the strategies below to become more accountable
1) Know Your Role: It’s hard to be personally accountable if you’re not clear what you’re responsible for. If this is the case for you, ask your boss to provide a job description that sets out your tasks clearly. If responsibilities are unclear within the team, ask your manager to outline who is responsible for different team tasks, and to share this information with everyone involved.
2) Be Honest: Success in life only comes when you’re completely honest with yourself, and with others. This means setting aside your pride, and admitting when you’ve made a mistake. So, tune into your “gut feelings” when things are difficult, and learn to ask for help if you’re struggling, so that you don’t let others down.
3) Learn to apologise: Accountability doesn’t stop with honesty. If something has gone wrong and you were responsible, then you need to apologize. Many men find this difficult as they always want to be proven wrong and in the process disrespect others. Focus on making amends when you apologize – show what you’ll do to make the situation right. This allows everyone involved to move on, and helps them focus on the end goal, rather than the problem.
4) Don’t Over-commit: When you take on too much, something will eventually fall through the cracks. That means that you’ve let someone down. So, before you agree to a new task, think carefully about your schedule and whether you’ll be able to fulfil the task to the best of your ability. If you’re not sure that you can complete it, say “yes” to the person and “no” to the task so that you maintain a strong relationship and a good reputation.
5) Make Changes: Accountability can open up powerful learning opportunities. When something hasn’t gone to plan, ask for feedback, and look for ways to do things differently in the future. Reflect on your actions, too: spend some time at the end of each day running through these simple questions:
In some failing organizations, managers who avoid being accountable can get ahead, while those who take responsibility may be ejected if some small thing goes wrong.
If your organization has this type of culture, then it may be time to behave accountably, and find a new role in a better organization.
When you are personally accountable, you take ownership of what happens as a result of your choices and actions. You don’t blame others or make excuses, and you do what you can to make amends when things go wrong.
To become more accountable, make sure that you’re clear about your roles and responsibilities. Be honest with yourself and others, so you can admit when you’re wrong, apologize, and move on.
Make the most of your time, and manage it carefully so that you don’t take on too much.
Lastly, think carefully about situations where you didn’t take responsibility but should have. These mistakes and failures can be valuable teaching tools, if you have the courage to learn from them.
By Edmund Kamugisha
Edmund is the Engagement Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 12+ years of management consultancy experience notably in MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry.
You can follow him on twitter: @edmokmg