Building Personal Accountability at Work

Dec 31, 2015

Make “No excuses” your mantra to practice personal accountability at work.

As a manager, you hold the key to your success in your own hands. This idea isn’t new. A study done by the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1918 determined that at least 85 percent of your success depends on your character, leadership abilities and communication skills, not your IQ.

What that means is if you apply yourself and make informed choices, you improve your chances of success. On the other hand, if you blame your failures on the people and circumstances that surround you, you most likely are doomed to fail.

What Is Personal Accountability?

When it comes to personal accountability at work, you might often come up against forces that seem to continually align against you. How can you accept responsibility when it seems that circumstances always lie beyond your control? What can you do when you’re running into a wall of bad luck at every turn?

For starters, you can take control of your thinking. Remember, you are responsible for your own success. Being able to don the personal accountability cloak at work, despite seemingly overwhelming obstacles, is a skill you can learn. Begin here and now by practicing the following six steps toward building your own personal accountability and share it with those who you manage, if applicable.

1. Start with Measurable Goals

When you accept personal responsibility, you inspire your employees to follow suit. When your team sees your passion for success, as well as your belief in your company’s values, they understand that you hold yourself and them accountable for reaching those goals — both the hard numbers and the improved productivity.

Task yourself with setting goals for your team. These should include short-, medium- and long-term goals that are well within reach. Successful leaders who claim personal responsibility for achieving goals set a precedent for the company and everyone involved in its success. Share benchmarks with your team as well as shortcomings. Show through your example that personal accountability is not punitive, but actually a highly positive prospect when mastered.

2. Engage with Solutions

Being accountable to your team and to your company — and requiring personal accountability from your staff — provides opportunities to engage in solutions. For example, you might coach a team member who has had problems reaching his goals. Alternatively, you may develop the necessary communication skills to conduct difficult conversations with staff, vendors, company leaders and clients.

Engaging with employees to find solutions does not mean that you have to become friends; instead, focus on building professional respect for the personal accountability you each bring to the table. By taking responsibility for your team’s successes and failures, you instill a sense of loyalty toward the company. Your accountability shields the team members, so they feel safer to expand their reach. As a result, they’ll feel capable of reaching further for success.

3. Empower Yourself and Your Team

Instead of giving away your control, you actually empower yourself and your team to take control when you institute a culture of personal accountability. You take ownership of circumstances when your credibility is on the line. And you empower your team to assume responsibility as well, leaving them free to find solutions and successfully attain their goals.

Clearly defined job objectives and duties allow you to take a more active role in reaching goals. When you’re personally responsible, you and your team assume ownership of what happens as a direct result of your choices and actions. You stop making excuses, and you make amends when you make mistakes.

4. Manage Results and Expectations

As a manager, your first duty is to tell your team that you practice personal accountability and expect the same from them. When you do this, you also commit to telling on yourself when you make a mistake. You are, after all, the primary example of what personal accountability in the workplace looks like.

Honesty about your own role in failures or problems invokes trust in your staff. When you truly practice an open door management style, you’ll find your door swings both ways. The trust you garner is priceless. Being open and honest also means that you lead by asking for help when you need it, which continues to set the standards for how you run your department.

5. Maintain Consistency with Regular Feedback

Once your team has reached its goals, it’s time to set the bar even higher. Your personal challenges and the challenges you give your team keep them motivated and ultimately successful. Providing regular feedback ensures that you are on target with your goals and that everyone is assuming responsibility for their roles in the work.

Foster an environment built on candor to maintain the respect of your team. Fewer excuses are apt to arise when you practice honest, transparent communications through regular feedback. You can nip the excuses in the bud when you have built-in feedback in your management plan of action.

6. Focus on the Rewards of Personal Accountability

Not only are you more likely to reach your goals, but you will build positive and productive working relationships when you practice a personally accountable management style. You may find that your personal relationships improve as well. When you take responsibility for your failures, you also earn the right to claim the successes, making you a happier person overall. The nagging thoughts that often accompany blame tend to prey on your serenity, creeping into your close relationships outside work.

Taking personal responsibility also puts you in a better light with your company’s leadership, increasing your chance of promotion. Corporate executives and business owners look for top management talent who take ownership of the work. The best executives reap personal satisfaction from a job well done.

Benefits Are Worth the Energy

Personal accountability leads to a more productive — and more peaceful — life. While change takes energy, incorporating personal accountability at work and in your personal life delivers peace of mind and a sense of control over your career. By taking control, you will:

  • Save time when you stay focused on solutions

  • Save money when you empower your team to find better ways of working

  • Gain respect when you humbly know your limitations and talents

  • Become much more adept at time management

  • Reduce stress in your life

Hold yourself accountable to your workflow, your responsibilities and your commitments. Take personal responsibility to the next level and take control of your career.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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