It's a common story. You end a strategic meeting. There are several initiatives on which everyone agrees are important to complete by the end of the quarter. Everyone at the table says they will contribute to get it all done, but when the end of the quarter arrives very little of the list actually got accomplished. It's not that these were bad people or that they didn't work hard. In fact they were likely all highly responsible members of the team. The problem was that no one was actually accountable for making sure the initiatives were complete.
Many struggle with the definition of accountability versus responsibility. The difference is simple. Many people can be responsible for helping out on a task or initiative. But accountability belongs only to one person who will be judged on the completion of the project.
Truly accountable people are very hard to find. Accountability comes from within. It is not something you are given, you have to choose it to own it. Here are 8 of the many habits accountable people choose to make part of their everyday life.
1. They take responsibility.
When responsibility is forced upon people they can often be resistant or even resentful. Highly accountable people willingly take on responsibility and actively manage it so it gets done. They make sure once the initiative has their name on it, no one else need worry about its completion.
2. They don't make excuses.
Objective hindsight is helpful when problem solving, but when something goes wrong, in-the-moment blame is a waste of time and energy. Highly accountable people don't throw others under the bus for their own missteps or inaction. They also don't excuse themselves based upon outside influences. They do good analysis and solve problems as they arise.
3. They are on time.
What good is completing initiatives if the usefulness of the result is long past. Highly accountable people understand that every project has a time value and that punctuality serves a purpose. Part of what makes them trustworthy is their efficiency and dependability to not waste a minute of other people's time or their own.
4. They control their own fate.
In any project obstacles occur. But proper planning with a positive and pragmatic attitude can overcome nearly any obstruction. A victim mentality is not in a highly accountable person's repertoire. They do not wait to be checked or monitored by others but work proactively and diligently with the team to finish the job.
5. They own their feelings.
Emotions can run hot on a high stakes project. Highly accountable people know that negative emotions can derail productivity. They stay in control of their feelings and don't let a bad day or emotional colleague get in the way of accomplishing what needs to be done. They aggressively attack each problem at it's core making sure no one gets lost in the emotion of insecurity and dependence.
6. They manage expectations.
Vagueness leads to inactivity. Highly accountable people are clear about what needs to be done and when. They think carefully and realistically about a project and give you an answer you can rely on. When something gets in the way, they assess it, resolve it and communicate proactively to make sure everyone is on board with the adjusted result.
7. They collaborate.
There are few worthwhile tasks that can be completed by a single individual. Highly accountable people are great at using the resources around them. They make the most of each available body by engaging, inspiring and empowering them to add positively to the result.
8. They don't expect praise.
Accolades are nice, but none are deserved if the project is partially done. Highly accountable people get their satisfaction from delivering quality product on time with a team that feels great about the accomplishment. Any additional praise is just an added bonus to a job well done.