Joan Burge explains how to improve your accountability and credibility in the workplace
What is Accountability?
Accountability is all about being responsible and being present.
We are accountable in so many areas, not only to each other, but to ourselves. Even if no one is watching over your shoulders or your executive travels 90 percent of the time, you must answer to yourself. When you don’t follow through – doing your job – the department or group you support could literally fall apart.
Accountability also means trust; we trust that when we are accountable, good things can and will overtake our lives. We are willing to take a step out of the boat and risk, knowing that we will be set apart (in a great way!) and people will ultimately notice. However, that’s not why we do it, in and of itself. Those who step up and take accountability daily are those who are most happy, most contented, and who enjoy life most fully.
Accountable people know this life is no dress rehearsal! This is a one-shot life, and they give it their all, every day. People who are accountable want to have a hand in creating success and positive change, rather than sitting idly by and complaining or finding fault. They want action, synergy, and are willing to pay a price (involvement and responsibility) in order to run the race and obtain the prize.
What is Credibility?
Credibility is your reputation.
When your executive knows that even though things may shift, change, plummet, switch up, or fall apart, you are the glue that will get them through it, they have faith in your credibility. They “know” you will get through the next week, month, quarter, marketing campaign, or whatever. It’s important for your colleagues, executives, and others to KNOW that your credibility and accountability have created someone who won’t run but will stand firm and remain in place when all others might quake in their boots or run and hide.
Credibility means never cutting corners. Not shirking duties. Not cutting out early, expanding your lunch hour(s!) or “feeding” off your company’s assets or resources.
Credibility establishes trust with your business partners: “I depend on you to follow up, follow through, and take action.” An example would be making a phone call and sending an e-mail to set up travel appropriately. When you don’t follow through, your executive, business partner, or others lose trust in you, which leads them to pull back from giving you future assignments or responsibilities. They just aren’t “sure” of you.
You can see how accountability and credibility can impact business: people rely on you to take action and when you don’t, there is a domino effect that can hold people up or cause them to miss tremendous opportunities.
Perhaps you might be thinking to yourself, “The things I do don’t really have a big effect on my company’s bottom line!” but that is not true. You play a huge role every day. Just like the film Groundhog Day where the main character discovers he had a profound effect on people around him, so do you.
That person you greet, the confirmation phone call you make, the great new technology resource you research and bring in-house, the book you read that teaches you new ideology, all of these change you, much like “the butterfly effect.” The butterfly effect is a popular principle in chaos theory that states that in any dynamic system, small initial differences may, over time, lead to large unforeseen changes or consequences.
If you have the mentality that “I’m not important to this entire puzzle,” then you are not being accountable. You are missing the whole impact of your life’s strength and worth!
Today, you must decide to create even a little impact. And build from there!
How to Improve Accountability and Credibility
1. Walk Your Talk
Do you preach being on time, yet you are always late?
Whatever you talk about in your meetings, you must demonstrate to others. An executive assistant stated her company doesn’t provide training in the technology that her executive uses, such as the iPad. Yet she won’t spend her own money or time to take classes outside of work. If you talk “the big talk” about wanting to be a person who learns and grows, but you won’t help yourself by obtaining what you need in order to grow, then you are not walking the talk.
Accountability will show in the results. The proof is in the results.
2. Just Do It
When you’re not in the mood or your physical strength isn’t there, do you still get up and do it anyway because you can’t let people down?
You know the work must be done; you have responsibility to people outside your company or world. If you don’t do it, if you let your accountability falter often enough, you won’t be given any responsibilities – or will be replaced with someone who does.
Be diligent; be committed.
When you have proven accountability with your executive, you will have the opportunity to take on a lot more. Regardless of whether you are accountable for staff or an exclusive project, you must prove that you can be trusted.
3. Meet Deadlines
Do you communicate about deadlines clearly at the very beginning of a project? Do you ask questions when you’re given a project to separate the “real deadline” from the “desired deadline”?
Simply put, you must stand and deliver. You must deliver the goods. You must come to the table of business, willing to communicate honestly and holistically. Making your deadline is all about working with passion and honesty.
Yes, there will be times that they really do need it when they say they do, and it’s impossibly tight. That is when you will need to “pull a rabbit out of your hat,” digging deep and getting resources from wherever necessary to get it done anyway.
On the other hand, “pulling a rabbit out of the hat” takes a huge amount of adrenaline, and you don’t want to work that way every day, all day. Work with your executives and managers to communicate about lead time, administrative processing time, and actual deadlines so you can help each other with real time, real world awareness. You need to know when they “really do” need it this very moment, and when “it would be great to have.”
But make no mistake about it: you must deliver the goods, bottom line, to build a strong reputation. You can look professional, you can talk a good game, but at the end of the day, did you deliver? That’s what they’ll remember about you.
4. Don’t Make Excuses
Do you always have good reasons why you can’t get something done or why you can’t do something? Do you know how and when these reasons stop you from simply becoming “excuses de jour” that get in the way of doing work that adds value to your leaders and companies?
There are reasons and then there are excuses. Sometimes you do have valid reasons. These are usually infrequent, unpredictable, life-changing events, such as auto accidents, family bereavement, or illness. They might be conflicting deadlines. These need to be communicated and worked out by the appropriate parties.
Then there are excuses. They are weak defenses against missing deadlines, skipping full workloads, or cutting corners. Excuses don’t communicate learning and changing to do better next time; they simply are an announcement of what is obvious. And it isn’t pretty or handsome!
When does a reason become an excuse, thereby standing in the way of you moving forward with “real work”? Realistically, you may have 50 things to do. It’s all about prioritizing how to do the 50 things. You get the most important work done first and then you reprioritize the balance of items.
Hidden fears are an enormous roadblock to moving ahead. You say you don’t have time to go to Toastmasters to learn how to speak well, which would help in day-to-day work, but the real reason is you’re afraid to speak in front of others. Yet what you’ll tell yourself and anyone who will listen is that “Yes, I’m a couch potato,” or “I don’t want to drive that far,” or “I worked all day and I just want to go home,” or even “I don’t want to network!”
5. Be Future-Focused
What can you be accountable for?
You can use a holistic approach to the calendar. You can think about the big picture, keep an eye on what is coming up in the short and long term. Inventory what will be coming at you and be responsible to accomplish that. You need to prepare yourself for that eventuality, event, class, or opportunity. Get comfortable thinking ahead, thinking farther out than you currently do now. Prepare now for your workload coming up in the next quarter.
Leadership is about accountability and credibility, too. Be prepared to step up during turbulent times or sudden problems, keep your head calm, and maintain the ability to think calmly and strategically to create solutions.