Let’s just say that individual accountability is old skool. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth talking about. In today’s job market, being personally accountable is necessary lest you fool yourself into thinking that you are producing results and are living up to your commitments when you are not.
Anita Bruzzese gets this in her article 6 Questions to Increase Your Accountability Muscle. They are good questions, ranging from asking yourself if you are responsible for your results — good and bad — to understanding that you have control over your career choices.
She interviews Linda Galindo, an executive coach and accountability expert who ends up noting:
Galindo says that employees feeling more pressure these days to perform can use personal accountability to actually make their lives less stressful and gain clarity about their career.
“You end up paying over and over again for not being accountable. You have to decide that you’re going to step up and answer for your results,” she says. “The question is: Are you ready to step up and take responsibility for your own success?”
I’d add one other accountability question: Are you digging up your own mud?
Digging up your own mud is finding problems with your work before anyone else does. This could be in your own work or, as a manager, finding your problems in your department. In other words, you don’t get “caught” by someone else that there are problems you are not addressing; you already know about the problem.
There are some big benefits of digging up your own mud. First, you solve issues before they become noticeable to the outside world. That means you simply don’t have the same number of problems visible to anyone else. Everyone has problems — you just go about solving yours in a systematic way so they are not obvious to everyone else on the planet.
Secondly, when someone does notice a problem out there, you already know about it. In fact, you acknowledge there is a problem and explain some of what is going on that has been causing the problem. It takes real accountability to fess up to something like that; few people do. Simply knowing of the problem helps your accountability — and credibility — a great deal.
Finally, you’ve already taken some action on getting the issue fixed. Now when someone brings up a problem, not only do you acknowledge the problem, but you are already working on it to get it fixed.
Think about that from the perspective of the person bringing up the problem to you. They were probably concerned about bringing it up to you. Then you acknowledge the problem, relieving the stress of the confrontation. Plus, you are already working on a solution — and can invite that person to help solve the problem.
You go from reactive to proactive. You pivot from problem to solution.
No one likes being called out for problems, one of the reasons we try and hide our issues. Yet, if you are accountable enough to dig up your own mud, you move from a defensive position to one of offense where you are always out there looking for problems to solve and already working any issues that come up.
Who wouldn’t love an employee who recognizes problems, fixes them, or is already working them?