Picture this; John works in the Marketing department of a medium-sized Tech company. He is constantly behind on deadlines, is always making excuses as a result and incessantly points out that his supervisor is unfair to him, because of the several performance improvement plans (PIPs) he has had to undertake in the past few months.

Does this sound like a familiar case that you have encountered in your organization, as a peer or manager? Or even more self-introspectively; have you been this person anywhere you have worked? If you answered yes to this question, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s unpack this, shall we?

When in a situation where it feels like you’re being attacked, our natural instinct is to become defensive. Which is why, when your supervisor asks about a deadline you missed, you are inclined to look for an excuse instead of taking accountability and renegotiating a new deadline, or just being truthful about why the deadline was not met. It’s difficult to point a finger at yourself instead of always shifting blame to an external factor. However, in order for you to advance; in your career, personal life, and relationships, you need to learn to point the finger to yourself more often.

Personal accountability is a key driver for increasing individual and organization success. It is the deliberate choice to act diligently on all your roles and to accept responsibility for the outcomes of your actions. How can you practice personal accountability at work, you ask?

1. Setting SMART goals – Once you have a clear understanding of the expectations the organization has for you, ensure you set micro-goals for yourself, that you can use to work towards achieving your targets, or expected outcomes. Doing this ensures you don’t let things fall through the cracks, therefore not putting yourself in a precarious position of having to explain to your supervisor why certain things were not accomplished.

2. Taking ownership of your work – This is strongly tied to taking initiative. Essentially, taking ownership is telling your teammates, and supervisors that they can trust you to do the right thing; to deliver on time, to be reliable, and to keep your word. Ultimately, this creates a strong sense of trust in the team. Make sure you communicate your needs and ask for support as early as possible, to avoid a project from delaying, or from causing conflict as a result of your peers, or supervisor being affected. Also, ownership negates micromanagement, which we all know nobody likes.

3. Asking for feedback – One of the most effective ways to self-improve and become better at your work is through receiving feedback. This should not only be exclusive to your supervisor, but also to your peers. Don’t always wait for the bi-annual performance review. Take the initiative to non-formally ask for feedback, on a periodic basis; based on the personal career or learning goals you have for yourself. Here is an article to guide you on how you can ask for feedback that will help you

4. Learning from mistakes – Instead of obsessing over a mistake you made and seeing it as just that; use the opportunity to be a teachable moment. Most of the people you look up to, that are now experts in their field, got there by making mistakes and learning from them. In addition, use these opportunities to acknowledge any areas of improvement you need to work on; this may be in the form of on the job training or taking up an online course. Check out our post on 5 tips to accelerate your learning with online courses

5. Self-introspection – This is where self-awareness comes into play. The more present you are, and the more you hold a mirror to yourself; about your work, ability to be reliable, how you relate to others, communicate your needs, and/or frustrations and so forth, the more likely you are to hold yourself accountable for your actions and foster a sense of trust with your peers, and managers.

In conclusion; form a habit of self-evaluation at work, where you refrain from unjustifiably blaming external factors for things you are able to change yourself. Ultimately, these habits are also able to inform you of what next steps you should take in your career, and may just reveal that you need to shift in a different direction!

We leave you with this quote, for emphasis purposes;

“Take accountability… Blame is the water in which many dreams and relationships drown.” -Steve Maraboli