The new college graduate asked, “what is the one thing I should focus on to have a successful career?” I pondered for a second, thinking of the many possible answers, but gave one that I believe is the most critical these days and will set you apart your entire career.

My answer – “Be accountable.”

Why? Because accountability is so rare today. Accountability is “the willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”  If I’m accountable, I’m responsible for doing what I was supposed to do and if I don’t, I’m willing to say, “you’re right, I didn’t get it done, it is my responsibility.”  Unfortunately, we don’t hear that very often, we usually hear excuses of why they didn’t get done what they were supposed to do.

If you are willing to be accountable, it will set you apart in a positive way from those you work with. You will accomplish more than those you work with. You will learn more because you won’t take the easy way out. When your leader is looking for someone to take on special assignment or to join a team for a special project, you’ll be at the top of their list.

If you’re accountable, you don’t blame others. It’s popular today to blame someone else, it’s as if we have no personal responsibility. When you see others doing it, we assume we can do it too.

Sadly, many leaders accept blaming others for failure as a response instead of holding them accountable. In doing so, they are lowering their standards. It’s time for our leaders to step up and be leaders. Holding your team accountable isn’t easy but letting them off the hook doesn’t help them become the best they can be. If you really care about your team members, you’ll hold them accountable.

When I look back at the best teachers in school or leaders I worked for, the ones I learned the most from had high standards and expectations of me. They didn’t accept excuses for not getting things done.  If I tested them to see if I could get by with something, they always held their ground, they were consistent. I learned more from them and became more successful.

I also learned that when you expect more from someone and hold them accountable, they usually meet or exceed your expectations. And, when you accept excuses, allowing them to do less than their best, they will continue to give you less than what you expect.

Here are my Top 5 “favorite excuses” that I’ve heard most often over the years.

  1. I must have misunderstood you.
  2. I thought they were going to take care of it, so I didn’t have to.
  3. I thought it was a soft deadline.
  4. I was waiting for approval/permission.
  5. They wouldn’t meet with me to give me the information I needed.

Have you heard any of these? Do you have a list of favorite excuses you’ve heard?

There is an old quote, “Success comes in cans, failure in cant’s.”

If you want to succeed, be someone who “can” get things done, not someone who is always explaining the “cant’s”?

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Romans 14:12

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