Stop The Vanilla Blog

Personal Accountability


I have to thank my parents, Don and Mary Jane, for so many things. But one of the most important lessons they taught me was personal accountability. You know – taking responsibility for your actions. It was one of those things that was not much fun to learn but I’m glad I did.  Today, I’m working on teaching my own kids this important life lesson.

It’s also an important factor on the job. Personal accountability is not only an important skill to have, but it is also in high demand. In a study by Target Training International (TTI), they found that in over 95-percent of the jobs they studied, personal accountability was one of the top seven personal skills required for superior performance on the job. It is one of the soft skills that make a great employee, a great leader and a great person.

TTI defines personal accountability as “The capacity to take responsibility for one’s own actions, conduct, obligations and decisions without excuses.”

It seems that nowadays we often see people in our society who want to pass the buck or blame someone else or some outside factor for their own mistake or failure. It is easier to define personal accountability than it is to live it.

How can you increase your level of personal accountability at work?

•In every meeting, use an action plan register to document all tasks with an owner and completion date. At the start of the next meeting review the action plan register first to create a culture of accountability.

•Ask one of your colleagues to hold you accountable for your commitments.

•Evaluate your performance at the end of each week or project. Are you completing your tasks on time?  How can you improve?

I often get asked by clients how can we hire for personal accountability? When developing an interview strategy, consider using the following questions in your selection process.

•What person from history do you most admire for taking the blame for a failure? What did taking the blame do for that person?

•What is the worst business decision you ever made? What made it the worst? What would have helped you to avoid making that decision?

When executing a candidate specific interview strategy for a client, SM Advisors will ask questions like these combined with behavioral assessments that can accurately measure their level of personal accountability and other soft skills.

Someone who has a strong sense of personal accountability will perform well, even when expectations aren’t clear, resources are hard to find, and competition is tough. Their accomplishment of goals goes beyond the job. Reaching for personal and professional goals is a fundamental part of who they are.  No wonder why the skill of personal accountability is in high demand.

One of the best ways to get personal accountability from others is to show it yourself. Can you hold yourself accountable for that?   Remember, Those Who Plan – PROFIT!

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Does Your Last Name Guarantee You a Job?

Family BusinessI am currently working with a family business that is transitioning from the third generation to the fourth generation.  The family strategy of the third generation was that any family member who wanted a job would have one.  This applied to blood relatives as well as in-laws.  As a result, there are more than ten family members in the business.   However, there was very little thought on what position each family member should fill.  As a result several family members are in positions that are not a fit with their natural gifts and talents.  This skill set misalignment has led to several unhappy and under performing family members.  It has created several strained relationships across the family and company.

I am currently in the process of developing the strategic plan with the fourth generation and they will have the opportunity to define their own family strategy.  We also have non-family members on the planning team so it will be a very healthy discussion on how the company wants to move forward with its family strategy.

One of the many blessings that results from having a family business is the opportunity to employ family members.  However, from experience I can tell you that how a family manages its nepotism strategy has a direct correlation to how successful the family business is, both from a financial and family harmony perspective.

To be effective, all family businesses should be proactive in discussing a family strategy and then come to an agreement on that strategy. I can relate to this because I am preparing for my son to eventually enter our business. I have learned from this experience that clarity has become the focus in our relationship. We must both be on the same page as we prepare for the future.   Neither of us wants to jeopardize the healthy relationship we currently have.

Here are some important questions to discuss and ask when you are defining your family strategy:

  • What is more important?  Employing family members or optimizing the performance of the business to build family wealth?  The optimum scenario is both but this is a much needed healthy discussion that will set the foundation for the family strategy.
  • Does being a family member guarantee you a position in the company?  What favor is provided to family members that want employment in the family business?
  • How do you define a family member? Does it apply only to blood relatives or does it include in-laws as well? How far does it go? For example, does it include cousins?
  • Have you clearly defined the key accountabilities for each position?  Are you using behavioral science/assessments to make sure each person (family and non-family) has the skills that match the requirements of the position?
  • Does each family member have 100% role clarity in their position?
  • Have you defined the process to address under performing family members and non-family members?

Make sure that all family members understand the family policy so there are no hard feelings. Be consistent with the policy, as inconsistencies will create more issues. Consider how the non-family team members are impacted as well. Have your human resources department and other advisors get involved in the process, and seek counsel in this area if you don’t have that expertise.

I have seen family businesses destroyed because of family conflict and mismanagement. However, I have also seen family businesses create wealth and joy for generations.  There’s not one right answer for every family business, you just need to be proactive in developing a family strategy that creates harmony and optimizes the financial performance of your organization.  No success in business is worth failure at home. Remember, Those Who Plan – Profit!

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