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Accountability is defined as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. In the workplace and in team work, being accountable is a paramount quality, linked with trust, reliability and responsibility. However, accountability can be wrongfully associated with other behaviors that ultimately drive damageable results.

  • Accountability does mean having to do everything yourself

There’s a myth that accountability equates to having to do everything in an individual, solitary way. However, a systematic tendency to avoid asking for help can have catastrophic outcomes. When running a project, it’s important to break it down, to divide it into phases and to identify who to turn to for help if required. Putting everything in place to get a project in on time is at the essence of accountability. It often involves asking for help! Colleagues who are able to rely on others demonstrate responsibility for the commitment they made.

  • Accountability doesn’t mean saying “yes” to everything

Every individual has a responsibility to themselves and to others to others to speak up and ask for what they need. Having too many tasks to complete will lead even the most motivated ones to the breaking point. To remain accountable, it’s important to speak up before this happens. Speaking up for yourself means that you are telling the truth about what you can and can’t do. It means that you’re asking for help when and as you need it. It means you’re communicating your results in real time and not trying to camouflage the truth. In a culture of accountability, colleagues provides feedback in real time, to simplify workflows and to guarantee a constant and sustainable level of performance.

  • Accountability doesn’t imply lacking in flexibility

There is an important time management dimension in accountability. We know that the unexpected will occur, we know that unanticipated events may impact what can be done and by when. It’s critical to build in that extra safety margin of time in order to set ourselves up for success.

How to demonstrating your accountability: the example of meetings

Meetings are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate accountability toward your missions and the people you work with. There are 3 key moments to show accountability: before, during and after meetings.

Before a meeting is the time to prepare. The questions to ask yourself right before heading into a meeting are: what do I need to get from the meeting that I’m attending? As a participant, what can I listen for that will help me do my job better? If you are in a management position, it’s important to think about the people who may not be in the room but who will be affected by the outcomes of the meeting. How can you prepare to speak up for them?

During the meeting, accountability means participating fully. When you’re in that meeting, engage. Pay attention to everything that’s being said. If necessary, you may be representing people who aren’t in the room. Remember to speak up for what you need or what they might need. Focus on being as present as possible to gain the maximum value from that meeting.

After the meeting, focus on production by doing what you said you would do. Nothing demonstrates accountability like finishing the projects that you take on and doing the tasks that you commit to. When you leave the meeting, make sure to track your to-dos and your tasks. That way, your colleagues will know that you are accountable for your commitments.

Accountability towards yourself and your career

Holding yourself to the highest standards of accountability will ultimately take you far in your career. It’s key to put yourself in a position to do the job you want to have in the future. To get there, it’s important to take initiative. Find out what that next skill set is, not just to meet current expectations, but to meet future ones as well.