Is “Accountability” a 4-Letter Word?

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Some people think so. They envision a micro-managing, fire-breathing boss watching over their shoulder, waiting for them to make a mistake.  Then boom! Here come the consequences.  But accountability can be a powerful tool to catapult you into a higher sphere of accomplishment!

 To whom are we accountable in our jobs?

  • Supervisors
  • Clients
  • Colleagues
  • Employees  – if we supervise people. Yes, even if you are a manager, you are accountable to your staff  – to answer their questions, support them, and coach them toward achieving their goals.

Leading yourself is critical to your success in the workplace – and in life!

What IS “being accountable?”

  • Being responsible – for your actions & “inactions”
  • Being  answerable

 What does “accountability” look like? 

  • Acute listening: Understand exactly what you are supposed to do
  • Timely response: Meet deadlines
  • Quick advisement if a delay is beyond your control
  • Thorough research: Detailed and correct
  • Articulate analysis: Correct spelling and grammar
  • Effective communication to all stakeholders

A panoramic jigsaw puzzle is incomplete with just one piece missing.  A company is only as strong as each person doing his or her job to the best of the individual’s ability. But what if we are ONLY concerned about our individual jobs?

Benjamin Franklin said, “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Accountability’s cousin is Initiative. Always be thinking, “What can I do to improve… my life, my career, the way I serve my customers, the way I serve my supervisor, colleagues, company.” Take any courses offered.  Visit new places and gain new perspectives that will help in your work. Read books and magazines – about travel, about history, about leadership, science – whatever interests you most….  Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, run a race for charity. Look for opportunities to assist your supervisor, colleagues and clients if they are overburdened at work.

What if we break outside the normal duties of our work?  If we see something is not being done – is there fear our offer of help will not be accepted?  Perhaps we’ll be told to “go back to our own job?” Our goal should always be to own it, to get it done.

Here are the ground rules for taking an assignment:

  1. Clear with your supervisor.
  2. Know the “expected results.”  How will success be measured? This is very important.  You may THINK you know what is expected but that may not be what IS expected.
  3. Obtain the standards of performance. What’s the presentation vehicle? The format of the final report?
  4. Establish the time of evaluation: What’s the deadline for completing the assignment, and are there periodic benchmark dates by which certain modules must be accomplished?

If it’s a job you pick yourself, whenever possible, work in your strengths. Use the opportunity to showcase what you really do well. Exercise care with colleagues, not to overstep your bounds by being so eager that you run over people. Remain un-defensive when you are given feedback about your progress. Correct any errors or misunderstandings with alacrity.

How many times can you drop the ball – and still be in the game?  Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone misses a deadline now and then. No human being is perfect. (Except I once had a boss who thought he was  – but that’s another article…)

If you drop the ball…

  • Be honest
  • Apologize, but no need to grovel
  • Offer the solution to avoid the error next time
  • Be vigilant to not repeat

Your solution to avoid the “drop” next time depends on the nature of the mistake:

  • Take on only what you can accomplish
  • Set reminder pop-ups to meet deadlines
  • Avoid procrastination
  • Work farther ahead to avoid time crunch
  • Focus!

Achieving personal goals builds momentum for achieving business and career goals. Tackle one big thing at a time:  Saving; healthier eating habits; daily exercise; learning a skill.

 What does making yourself accountable accomplish?

  • Develops trust among your working colleagues
  • Builds individual and company morale
  • Strengthens your company and enhances its reputation
  • Enhances your reputation
  • Makes you – and your employer – more successful!

Continue to build your reputation for being a trustworthy individual!  Clients will be impressed with your proactive communication and knowledge. Your supervisor and colleagues will know they have someone they can depend on.  You will feel great about yourself and your place in the company!

For supervisors:  Allow your employees to achieve! Give them challenging assignments that match their abilities. Outline the expectations and parameters. Establish dates for periodic reports to insure the project is on target. Know that fixing blame for failure is counter-productive in a healthy work environment. Be available for coaching, but resist the temptation to over-manage or take tasks back. Your staff’s success will be a stellar reflection on your abilities as a mentor/coach which will propel you forward in your own career!

Over many years, Gwen Kuebler has served in various management capacities in the travel/hospitality industry.  She has been a member of The Travel Institute since 1992.  Contact her via email.

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