Your Signature Work: Play Your Position
- Tuesday, August 24, 2004
- We plan to be a quality team. Therefore, I need to schedule a training class for my staff. I need to find a way to generate, save, or negotiate for $20,000 in my budget.
- I want to be a great salesperson. Therefore, I'll need to find a coach so I can get good feedback on my performance.
- I want to become a leader with opportunities to influence my division in ethical matters. Therefore, I'll have to earn respect from others with a team that finishes projects on time, within budget, and meets quality standards. So I'm going to need to recruit, hire, train and retain talented people to work for me.
Accountability is about holding the ball in your hands, looking at the positions of your teammates, glancing at the game clock, and deciding for yourself whether to pass, dribble or shoot. It takes courage to call your own plays.
Those who shrink from responsibilities keep on shrinking in other ways too.
A director of operations talks about one of the highlights of his twenty-five year career: "We needed to buy or lease a new facility for an acquisition we were about to make. It was bleeding about $3 to 4 million a month, and we needed to get the expenses under control. So that was in my realm of responsibility. My team studied the problem, and then I went to the president and said, 'I can fix the problem in about four months if you'll give us the money.'
"The president asked, 'How much?'"
"You got it," he said, "but you better deliver.'"
"And we did. We looked like heroes. We took full accountability for our plan. We told him we'd use our experience from previous acquisitions to hire consultants and make all the related decisions. Sure enough, we stopped the financial blood flow in four months. This division is now our most profitable. But he would never have let us have the money if we had not accepted full responsibility for the results."
In the current work culture with teams driving almost every initiative, it's difficult to find an individual or department who accepts full responsibility for a situation. Rather, it's far too easy to shrug your shoulders and pass the ball of blame to the next team or individual on the list.
In recent years individuals have attempted to take responsibility for their personal development – character traits, attitude, and career development – with performance tools and peer feedback systems. Some have been successful in making significant changes in their personality and performance, based on how others perceive them. Others have shrugged off peers' perceptions as unwarranted and plunged ahead, persisting in old habits.
Accountability can be tough or rewarding, depending on your purpose and ego strength.
Articles of Accountability
You may want to consider adopting the following Articles of Accountability as a way to paint a key on the court at your workplace and force yourself to stand behind the free-throw line on occasion, just as other people have to do.
Expect As Much from Yourself As You Do from Those above You
People in positions of authority are human beings struggling with the same weaknesses, worries, and warts that we all have. Why hold them to some super standard that you yourself do not model and criticize them for infractions that you would not want to be criticized for? They fail just like everyone else. Continually complaining about what the "powers that be" or politicians or the government should do is pointless.
The thing I like about baseball is that it's one on one. You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it's your mistake. If you hit a home run, it's your home run.
– HANK AARON
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