6 Questions to Increase your Accountability Muscle

6 Questions to Increase your Accountability Muscle

Some days I feel like I can hardly keep up with all the public figures behaving badly. Behaving badly and then lying about it. Then, apologizing for behaving so badly. And lying.

That’s why I was interested in discussing the issue of personal responsibility. Are we capable, I wondered, of taking personal responsibility? What impact does that lack of accountability have on the workplace? It’s a question I explored in my latest column for Gannett:

When ex-baseball player Mark McGwire recently admitted taking performance-enhancing steroids during his career, critics charged that his a truthfulness fell short when he contended he still could have hit his record-breaking number of home runs without the drugs.

Failing to accept complete personal responsibility – without excuses or addendums – is a practice that’s infected every nook and cranny of our society today, including the workplace, says Linda Galindo, an executive coach and accountability expert.

“Mark McGwire is an example of someone who tries to explain away why he did what he did,” Galindo says. “When you do something like that, your authenticity starts to be diminished. It’s just an example of the level of ridiculousness we’ve reached.”

Real accountability, Galindo says, means that you take ownership of your results – good or bad – and don’t point the finger at anyone else. It means that if you make a mistake, “you say what you did and what you learned from it and what you’ll do differently in the future,” she says.

If you’re on the slippery slope of evasiveness, she says, you end up spending more energy dodging honesty that you do taking responsibility and learning and growing from your experiences, she says.

Still, Galindo acknowledges that in this bad job market workers may fear being fired if they do admit a mistake, but she says taking on personal accountability can actually help a career. She says that shifting blame, telling lies and dodging questions doesn’t keep the truth from emerging later.

Further, a boss may be even more irritated by the evasion and the time lost trying to track down the real story – and fire you for not owning up to it in the first place.

If you make a mistake, Galindo recommends telling the boss that you want to take ownership of the situation, but you’d like some time to assess where you went wrong, and some solutions to the problem, she advises. Always make it clear to the boss, she says, “that you want to be there, and you want your job and you want to do better,” she says.

Galindo, author of “The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success,” (Jossey-Bass, $22.95), says that ways to increase your personal responsibility and accountability include asking these questions:

1. Are you responsible whether the results are good or bad? You have to decide to own the results completely, no matter the outcome. No excuses.

2. Do you recognize your own power? You alone have responsibility for managing your career. You can’t give that away unless you want to.

3. What are your expectations? What do you expect of others? Of yourself? Clarify with yourself and others what you expect. Ask questions to make sure you understand situations and avoid misunderstandings.

4. Are you dealing with the present? Let go of past annoyances or angers or regrets. You can’t change the past, so it doesn’t matter what “should” have happened. Worrying about who to blame or longing for what “could have been” is a waste of time and energy. Instead, focus on the present and how you want to react.

5. Do you always tell the truth? No one is perfect, but trying to cover up a mistake only makes it worse. Besides, when you lie you don’t really fool anyone – including yourself.

6. Are you policing yourself? “Personal accountability is a commitment. It’s ‘I’ messages. It’s saying that you want to own the problem and move forward,” Galindo says.

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?”

Do you see a lack of personal responsibility in your workplace? What impact does it have?


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