This is the seventeenth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Personal Accountability.
Personal Accountability has one of the more straightforward definitions: Being answerable for personal actions. Those who are personally accountable own their mistakes and use them to grow. They don’t shy away from responsibility or challenges. They work hard to meet their goals and deliverables and if they can’t, they tell you why. Without excuses.
A person who is skilled in Personal Accountability gets things done. They go out of their way to meet each and every commitment they have made. They don’t let setbacks keep them from reaching their goals. And they don’t look for outside sources of accountability, instead, they rely on themselves to make sure things keep moving. Highly accountable people also don’t need outside sources of direction. If they have an objective, they set out to complete it and don’t need to be told how. It’s all about owning yourself and your actions.
Personal Accountability also includes the ability to learn from your mistakes and your experiences. What obstacles have you run into in the past that slowed down your work? How might you avoid them in the future? You can also gather feedback to get others’ perspectives on how the project went. This might give you other ideas as to how to improve the next time around.
High levels of Personal Accountability tend to come with a “hero” mindset.
Everyone has the choice to view themselves as the victim or as the hero. A victim is someone that has no control over their outcomes, they are at the will of others or the circumstances surrounding them. I was late because the traffic was so bad. I couldn’t finish that report because no one gave me the data I needed.
A hero is someone who acts. They are in control of what happens to them. I was late because I pressed snooze too many times. I didn’t finish that report because I didn’t make it a priority to get the research I needed done. Heroes are in charge of their own destiny, victims are not.
Those that are personally accountable are in the driver’s seat. They know that they have agency over their own actions. Only they can control their behaviors and the resulting outcomes. They also know that they can’t control the actions and behaviors of others. Personal Accountability is just that, personal. So, they rely on their ability to control their reactions to others instead of trying to change the people around them.
Personal Accountability requires self-awareness and self-reflection.
Being able to learn and grow from your mistakes requires you to be able to self-evaluate. You need to be able to reflect on what happened and what part you played in the outcome. This requires a healthy dose of self-awareness. A skill that not everyone has developed.
Reflecting on your actions and the outcomes of those actions has innumerable benefits. One of the most important though is that you learn how your actions affect those around you. We don’t get to live in a bubble and just do what we want every day. We have to interact with those around us and work with others in order to get things done.
Self-awareness of your actions and their consequences leads to social awareness. Both in terms of knowing how you affect others and in how you can help others do their best work. You can use your understanding of how your actions affect others to ensure that you are not negatively impacting those around you. You can also use that awareness to help others see those connections too. This makes the whole team better as now people are more considerate of others and more intentional about their own actions.
Being personally accountable and being able to reflect on and improve from your past, will ensure that your work is always in demand. Everyone wants to work with someone who is both self and socially aware. It makes you a better person and a better colleague.
If you want to improve your Personal Accountability, you can start by simply admitting to and owning your mistakes.
Don’t use excuses or defenses. Acknowledge how your actions led to your current situation and own them. Everyone makes mistakes and no one should be afraid to admit them. As long as you are learning from them and moving on to new mistakes the next time around.
Many times, we are afraid to admit mistakes or missteps for fear of looking incompetent or unprofessional. But the truth is, no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and we can only get better if we take the time to acknowledge those mistakes and learn from them.
The next time something doesn’t go as planned, instead of looking for a scapegoat, look for your role in the problem. How did your actions get you there? What will you do differently next time? There may have been extenuating circumstances, but you can only make changes to your actions.
Remember, you can’t control others’ behaviors or actions. You can only control your reaction to them. How could you have reacted differently in order to reach a more favorable outcome?
Personal Accountability leads to success.
Being able to control and own your actions will set you up to succeed. Plain and simple. By owning your behaviors and following through on what you commit to doing, you will go far in life. Everyone wants to work with and employ those that are personally accountable.
This skill will help you get things done and consistently move towards your goals. You won’t get bogged down in defeat or let yourself get sidetracked by obstacles. You’ll be able to pick yourself back up, learn the needed lesson, and keep the momentum moving forward.
If you want to be more effective in life and work, you need to improve your Personal Accountability.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Personal Accountability skills, download our Personal Accountability Rx PDF here.