How much of your success would you say is up to you—your choices, your actions, your behaviours—versus outside conditions?
Margot was explaining to her boss that there was little chance her group was going to make the numbers for this quarter. “Honestly?” she said. “The numbers weren’t realistic to begin with. It was unlikely that we were going to make them.” The thing about the numbers though was that Margot developed them. I’ve been in the same boat – have you?
We love taking credit when our results are good. It’s a different story when our results fall short of what we wanted. Do you ever catch yourself justifying and giving reasons about the why, or who or what was responsible for your results – where everything is external to you, like: the culture you work in, the politics, your boss, team, the systems, market environment. Your rationale might be spot on, but how empowering is that?
At the heart of results is personal accountability
Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It’s about taking responsibility for an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.
Simply though, it’s about being honest “I didn’t achieve the result I set”.
My two very young children blame each other all the time. It drives me crazy. Oftentimes, I haven’t seen what happened before the tears started. I don’t know who was responsible, and chances are, they both were. The blame conversation is cut short and we talk about honesty instead and how to treat each other.
Only when you take accountability can you think differently – and it’s the learning in this thinking that provides the insight and lesson – even if the result wasn’t in your complete control.
What if you decided that you were 100% responsible for every result you created? How would your thinking change?
If you blame your problems and failures—big or small, personal or professional—on other people, circumstances beyond your control, or just plain bad luck, you may be doomed to fail.
The good news? Accountability is not only a mindset, it’s also a skill-set that anyone can learn.
Here are four keys to help you become more accountable
1. Decide your attitude and deal with ‘what is’
Worrying about how things “coulda woulda shoulda” been isn’t useful and only creates drama in your head. Instead ask yourself “How do I want to react to this situation?” “What am I going to choose to take responsibility for right now?”. Decide that the buck stops with you. What you choose to take responsibility for will position your potential and credibility more than anything else.
2. Manage expectations
Be clear about expectations—not only what you expect of you, but also what’s expected of you. To do that, you need to ask questions, clarify the detail and make agreements. If you think about it – all upset is the result of missed expectations.
3. Learn to say no
Choose your commitments carefully. You can’t afford to say yes to every request if it takes you away from what you need to be focused on. Saying no is hard – but necessary. Being overcommitted and stretched too thin is a problem you’ve created – whether you like it or not. Think about what you get out of always saying ‘yes’ and what it’s costing you.
4. Keep the promises you make to yourself
You have to know that you can count on you – so others know they can count on you too. If you don’t keep your promises, your word means little to you and your self-esteem gets eroded bit by bit. Your word is at its most precious when it’s your commitment to you. Do what you say you will.
Bringing it all together
Personal accountability is ultimately what will help you set, pursue, and achieve your goals. Taking accountability matters because it will set you apart. Remember that if you’re having trouble getting others to be accountable for their results – the first place to look is how you take accountability for your results. Leaders always set the example and standards for others.
Do you need to take stock of your personal standards around accountability?