What’s the Big Deal About Accountability?
Due more to luck than anything else, I’ve been an entrepreneur and my own boss for most of my career.
I’ve been fortunate to have had some extraordinarily talented and dedicated colleagues work with me over the years. Many of them are smarter and more capable than I am.
A lot of younger people in China are interested in career planning advice. This shows they recognize the complexities of making smart decisions about one’s career.
I talk to a lot of company bosses and managers here in China in my job, and one management headache they talk about frequently is finding, training, and retaining qualified managers.
On the other hand, lots of bright young school leavers and college graduates are desperately trying to break into the job market and get their careers into an orbit of success.
The good news is, there is huge upward employment opportunity and potential in China, and this should be the case for many years to come. The bad news is that many young people are not too clear on what to do to distinguish themselves and succeed.
There is obviously no “one size fits all” formula for career success, but there are a few things which young people should focus on if they want to get ahead.
One of these is developing an attitude of accountability. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and if you do make a mistake, don’t hesitate to admit it and take responsibility for it. If your company or department does not provide a supportive atmosphere for this kind of behavior, find another employer.
The opposite extreme from what Jim Collins call “window and mirror accountability” (ie taking limited credit for success but shouldering more than your share of blame for failure) is what I call people who are “excuse factories”. No matter what the mistake, their default response is to offer an excuse rather than take responsibility for an error.
Once the attitude of making excuses for one’s own mistakes becomes an ingrained habit, it is very difficult to change.
Chronic excuse-makers don’t make good managers or leaders, because their habit gets in the way of continuous improvement efforts, which all organizations need to embody in today’s competitive world.
If I were starting my career all over again, I would make developing and exhibiting an attitude of accountability a top priority.
My advice to young people is that whether they attend a famous school or not matters less than pro-actively embracing an attitude of accountability in their work. Likewise, even if they attend a famous school, their career may remain stalled if they do not build a solid reputation for being accountable.
And yes, luck helps as well.
Accountability is not only a critically important character trait for individuals. It is also the basis for effective corporate leadership and the heart of good corporate governance.
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