High performing, accountable job candidates want to join high performing, accountable organizations. When the level of personal accountability one holds is a mismatch with the organization, conflict and a plan to leave shortly after joining is not far behind.
Am I going to join a company that utilizes my work style orientation that places a high value on personal accountability or is it going to be a struggle from the day I say yes and take the job? Here are 5 things to look for when joining a company to decide if the company is accountable.
1. Definition of Success for the role you are accepting.
Is the organization clear on their definition of success for the role? Are you? In order to ensure success, success has to be defined. A pledge of support for your success going into a position is rhetoric unless it is backed by a meeting of the minds on what that means. For example, “Success is bringing standardization to common practices in the department in order to realize economic efficiencies that the organization needs.” If your boss-to-be agrees to that definition of success but does not reveal the “as long as” they have in mind, you are likely doomed. Their point of view may be “Yes, success is standardizing practices as long as you accommodate our high performer’s exception to skip the documentation requirement, or work around the underperformer who is 2 years from retirement.”
2. The organization has a role clarity process.
What you are told in the interview and subsequently sign up for may change dramatically as soon as day one on the job! It is that single line at the bottom of the job description that Human Resources hands you to sign that includes “…and other duties as assigned.” Is there a monthly meeting for the first six months to affirm role clarity? How often do you hear that “what was described in the interview is not what is happening on the job?” Although well intentioned, efforts to paint a clear picture going in does not mean things won’t change as new needs pop up. High performers know it is vital to respond to stay competitive, but leaving on-going role clarity untended is a huge mistake. Without a commitment to on-going role clarity updates, it is unlikely the organization retains accountable, high-performers as their role becomes doing the work of underperformers who are not held accountable to their role clarity.
3. How are mistakes or failures treated?
High performing, accountable people can count among their greatest achievements their biggest mistakes. Mistakes can be the hotbed of invaluable learning if looking back and debriefing to go forward is welcomed. Does your prospective new employer treat mistakes or failures as an opportunity for learning? Does the interview panel perk up when you show them examples of how you looked back and outlined what went wrong, what you did to fix the problem, what you learned and what you committed to do differently going forward? Will that practice be embraced in the job you are interviewing for or is the culture one of punitive accountability where a record of your mistake goes in your job folder for review time?
4. How are meetings run?
A culture of “no agenda, no meeting” is a welcome experience for accountable employees. Looking at a typical meeting agenda in an organization you are about to join will tell you a lot. Answers range from “there is no typical” to a very structured agenda format that includes the topic, time allotted, and what role everyone is expected to play including check boxes that indicate “for input, for discussion, for action, for decision.” Providing a sample of the type of agenda you are used to that promotes accountability and follow-through will give you insight into whether such a practice will be affirmed or drummed out. Since meetings eat up so much time when run poorly your insistence on clarity and efficiency by using an agenda can be a culture clash at the outset. Find out how meetings are run in the organization.
5. Present a “manage up” scenario.
It is not uncommon for an individual who answers for their results good or bad to expect the same of their boss. If the boss excuses or blames, misses timelines and breaks agreements that prevent success, a high performer may see the need to “manage up.” By presenting a clear agreement scenario in which the task, the outcomes, actions, by when’s, and stakes or consequences are outlined you can ascertain whether that kind of clarity for full accountability, up front, is going to be welcomed or resisted by the boss. High performing, accountable employees clarify to avoid confusing moving fast with getting somewhere. The clarification process, up front, using clear agreement is foreign to many work cultures which can be a reason the best people leave. They want to be part of something great and successful, with little time spent wondering if they have the needed authority, support, resources and permission to renegotiate priorities if timelines are going to be jeopardized.
Take the level of accountability that exists in a work culture you are about to join for granted at your own risk. Absent your accountability assessment of the culture you know the frustration you are in for. Organizations are looking for the best and the brightest and whether they know it or not, they are looking for the most accountable too.
Linda Galindo is a consultant specializing in individual and leadership accountability and the author of The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success—No Nonsense, No Excuses (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and Where Winners Live: Sell More, Earn More, Achieve More Through Personal Accountability (Jossey-Bass, 2013). An adviser to CEOs, executive teams, and boards of directors, she helps organizations make personal accountability their central organizing principle.