For the last five to 10 years, the word "accountability" has been widely discussed and bandied about. Whenever you pick up a business and/or human resource article to read, the word accountability is sure to be found.
Yet, even after all these years, do leaders, managers and employees really know what it means? And are people indeed applying a personal- or organizational-accountability framework? Is it well-known that the concept of accountability applies to everyone in the organization? Frankly, I am not sure, but no matter what your job role or responsibility, the concept of accountability applies to you.
Overall, accountability is a personal value. Values help you prioritize the where, when, what, why and how of your actions and behaviour. Some of the common workplace values you might recognize are service, respect, quality, collaboration, excellence, honesty, ambition, efficiency and, as noted, personal accountability. Yet the value of taking personal accountability is not something you were born with. Instead, it's one of those lifelong lessons an individual learns from the experience of growing up.
Values are unique entities in that people can identify how you think and what's important to you by observing your behaviour. The other thing that's unique is that many times people don't know what their own values are unless someone points out the signals their behaviour demonstrates. Finally, many people also don't realize that when they feel a sense of satisfaction in their workplace and/or in their personal life, it is a signal their feelings are actually matching their values.
So what does the value of personal responsibility and accountability mean to an employee? How can this value and behaviour propel and/or negatively impact your career progress? And since this value is something you can learn, how can you enhance and apply the appropriate values in your workplace? The following tactics will send you on your way.
Understand the meaning of values: First of all, understand what accountability means in the workplace. It means arriving and leaving work on time, completing your tasks on time and with quality work. It means doing the right thing at the right time in alignment with the goals and tasks assigned to you. It also means focusing on organizational goals and taking responsibility for all of your actions in the workplace. It is "ownership."
Understand the benefit of values: So, why should a value such as "accountability" even matter? It's because, just as everything you do needs to match your values in order for you to feel and reach success, the same applies to the workplace. For instance, if you arrive late and leave early, fail to do quality work, or finish behind schedule, your behaviour demonstrates your values are different than your employer's. Your lack of productivity punishes the employer, because overall revenue will be negatively affected. And it's likely you are not enjoying your job and are not achieving any sense of job satisfaction. Overall, your behaviour suggests your current job may not be a good fit. If this is the case, take responsibility and find another job more suited to your values.
Understand your own values: As I indicated earlier, values are what drive you to do what you do. However, many people, especially young people, don't understand their own values and don't understand how to explore this issue. One strategy is to read a self-help book that will help you identify your values. Secondly, work with a career counsellor to complete a self-assessment online and/or make your personal discoveries through an interview and paper-based questionnaire. Self-assessment is the most rapid way to learn about your values. However, be sure to match your values with the best fit to specific jobs and careers.
Focus on career progression: Taking personal responsibility and accountability can have a significant impact on your career. After all, who wants to promote an employee who can't show up on time or blames others for poor-quality work? Who wants to promote an employee who isn't a team player or one who constantly complains, rather than offering suggestions for improvement? What employer wants to promote an employee when he isn't dependable and can't be trusted? Believe me, it simply won't happen.
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Now that you know the importance of values and the value of personal accountability in particular to your career success, how can you successfully apply your values to work? How can you use values to improve the chances of career success? The following four tips should help put you in good stead.
Understand your job role: The reason organizations have job descriptions is so all employees understand their specific tasks, as well as the boundaries of their job. Knowing what you are responsible for helps you keep on track and be accountable. In turn, being accountable creates job satisfaction. Staying within those job boundaries is essential unless you are asked to undertake new tasks. People in general, and managers in particular, take offence at someone who deliberately oversteps their role. Pay attention to this organizational value. It is important.
Reach out and develop relationships: Another important value is the desire to reach out and develop relationships within your workplace. This means working well in a team, sharing and, supporting and helping others. This will result in having colleagues around you who will provide help when you need it. Relationship-building is perceived as a "soft skill" rather than a hard skill, but failing to apply this particular value will lessen your chances for promotion.
Apply effective time management: No matter what your job, it is important to focus on results, which means getting your task completed on time and under budget while at the same time providing quality work. When this occurs, your boss will recognize he or she can depend on you, trust you and feel comfortable delegating you increasingly responsible work. Career promotion will soon be written into your pathway.
Engage in continuous learning: Employers appreciate individuals who take continuous learning into their own hands. They value someone who is flexible about taking risks to try something new. This is a key tool to creating new opportunities, even if you decide not to stay with your current employer. You can't ever lose by gaining more education -- even more so if the employer sees you are taking this step on your own rather than expecting the employer to pay for anything and everything.
Personal accountability in the workplace is one of the biggest issues in today's businesses, both for individuals and for employers. When individuals and leaders apply personal accountability, everyone wins. Employees will be motivated and will experience increased job satisfaction, while employers will experience profitability and success.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed is a senior partner with Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.