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understand. But if you fail to meet your commitments more than once or twice, you lack accountability. If you find yourself constantly making excuses, asking for more time, or expecting others to understand why you “just didn’t get around to it,” it’s time to make a change. Either start pushing yourself harder or stop making promises you can’t keep. Being offended by the truth When someone calls you out—for dropping the ball, for behaving badly, etc.—how do you react? If you’re indignant or offended instead of accepting that the other person has made a valid observation, you’ve just killed your accountability. Covering up mistakes The fact that others don’t know about a slip-up doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. You run the risk of setting a bad precedent for yourself. The next time something comes up, you’ll think, Well, last time this happened I just shredded the document, or, I’ll just delete the customer’s email again. No one noticed before. Do this sort of thing enough times and the tendency to cover up becomes a habit. You get away with it, so you start to think it’s okay. But if your actions do come to light, your public reputation will take two hits: one for the original mistake and one for trying to hide it. Blaming others The so-called “blame game” is one in which nobody wins— least of all the person pointing the finger. Even if the fault lies with someone else, part of being an accountable person means doing your best to offer solutions, in addition, to pointing out problems. And if the blame does lie with you, it’s dishonest and reprehensible to attempt to shift it to someone else. Always own up to your mistakes. Even if you experience unpleasant short-term consequences, you’ll build an overall reputation for integrity when you ‘fess up’ to your mistakes. Asking others to cover for you “I have to leave a little early to run errands—will you just tell the boss I wasn’t feeling well if she asks?” Or, “I’m going to bail on John’s party but I don’t want to hear him whine about the fact that I won’t be coming. Just let him know something came up, all right?” Yes, these scenarios sound familiar to most of us. But that doesn’t mean that asking someone to deflect blame, conflict, or questions from you is acceptable. What makes you worthy of shirking responsibility when everyone else on earth has to face the music? When you behave this way, you bring the ‘coverer’ down with you, down to your low level of honesty, which damages both of you. And, if you get mad when the other person refuses to cover for you, you’ve degraded your accountability even further. Not offering an explanation for bad behavior… I admitted I was wrong—do I have to get into the nitty-gritty details of why? You ask. Well, yes. Acknowledging that the fault was yours is the first step—but only the first step. If you don’t truthfully explain why you acted as you did, others might still question your motivation, judgment, etc. You may still be viewed as lacking accountability. …or trying to justify it with a bad one There are a lot of adult versions of “The dog ate my homework.” But usually, our peers can see through them. You don’t do yourself any favors when you try to talk yourself out of taking responsibility. It just makes you seem as though you believe you are above the law. Stealing someone else’s thunder You have a brilliant employee that puts pristine presentations together and you use them often when you present to your boss without giving credit to your brilliant employee – in fact, you act as though you did the work. When someone asks for clarifying details and digs under the surface to get more information, you may stumble, revealing your deception and exposing you for what you are – a creditgrabber. Again, there goes your credibility. Also, how do you think this makes your employee feel? Other than having some choice words to describe you with, they are probably looking for a new boss. Is your behavior worth losing your ace-in-the-hole? Failing to take or give feedback When you can’t or won’t take feedback, you communicate to others that you aren’t interested in improving your performance. That’s pretty obvious. But there are also accountability implications associated with being unwilling to give feedback—it shows that you’re concerned with only your piece of the puzzle instead of the big picture. If you sit back and hope that someone else talks to the team member who’s bringing the whole project down, for instance, you’ve forfeited your right to complain when the finished product fails to meet expectations. The same thing goes for complaining about a decision after failing to offer your thoughts and insights while it was being made. Forcing others to remind you to act A colleague sends you several emails prompting you for the feedback you promised. Your spouse is constantly asking when you’ll fix the leaky faucet you said you’d take care of. A friend sheepishly reminds you that you owe her money for several meals she covered. Every other day, your boss has to tell you to act as though serving customers is a privilege, not a chore. Whenever you force someone else to remind you of an obligation you’re fully aware of, you’re springing a leak in your accountability account. If you want to build genuine, lasting success in any aspect of your life, you need to be someone whom others can trust. Anytime you give another person a reason to question your honesty, your dependability, your intentions, or your values, you’ll incur consequences. The good news is, most ‘accountability killers’—as well as their ramifications—are preventable if you’re willing to look closely and honestly at your own behaviors. LE Protecting Your “A” Factor In 2001, drawing on their respective years of experience in senior global leadership at Motorola, Julie Miller and Brian Bedford joined forces to establish MillerBedford Executive Solutions which helps organizations improve strategy, culture, and leadership. In their book, Culture Without Accountability—WTF? What’s The Fix? They examine what can happen when businesses, teams, families, and individuals shirk accountability. The book is full of real-life stories of what accountability looks like and what can go wrong in its absence. Visit www.millerbedford.com leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014 28


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