Take responsibility June 3, 2011

The buck stops here.

Responsibility is about ownership of an endeavour – a project, a problem, a shoot, a task. Accountability is being held to the consequences of the results, for example, completing all duties on a checklist. A professional person appreciates and understands the level of responsibility they have been given and when ready, they take an increased level – they do not wait for it to be offered or requested.

Responsible people are “present” for their work: vivacious, “switched on”, aware of surrounding pressures such as strategic goals and budgets, while being guided by policy and the company’s vision and mission. Responsible people know that not having responsibility creates an uncomfortable feeling of impotence, not being able to effect change. Having responsibility for an area of work develops us professionally and personally, strengthening our judgment and quickening our conscience giving us moral fibre.

Professional people do not blame others or play the victim: they take responsibility. Never “We broke it”, “It’s broken”, “They broke it”, “She broke it”,  instead: “I’ll fix it”. If you mess up – ‘fess up!

For example:

You were asked to collect accounting information for a team member. The information would be used to analyse the performance of the business. So it’s important, but is not mission critical immediately. You have a lot on, different tasks of different priority, you feel inundated with all these tasks and you can’t seem to work out where to start. The day comes to an end and you’re dreading the work the next day.

You wake up and you’re not looking forward to the day. You remember your team member needs the accounting data. You play with the idea of calling in sick.

Professional people do not let their team members down.

Professional people know that it is not only for what they do they are held responsible for, but also what they do not do. With increased responsibility comes increased freedom and increased power. Professional people use that freedom and power to work towards the company goals, vision and mission. Professional people are aware of moral hazards and actively work to equalise the playing field.

Professional people push responsibility down and out, then support those people, increasing the professionalism of more junior staff. A new position of responsibility will usually show a person to be a far stronger than was supposed, helping them to develop professionally and personally. Managers mentor staff to stay committed to their decisions, to stay flexible in their approach and to claim responsibility for the outcomes.

Professional people with integrity tell the truth and keep their word. They take accountability for past actions, admit mistakes and fix them. Professional people are accountable for their performance, attitude and results. They maintain and improve their professional competence, keeping abreast of new technology and best practices in their field.

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