Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.
Let’s take a moment to contemplate what the typical career journey looks like and reveal how to avoid the pitfalls where many women stumble!
Success early in your career relies on External Accountability. Your assignments and deadlines are linked to executives who determined whether you are assessed as a high potential employee—or not. There are negative career consequences associated to not completing tasks in a timely manner—“sticks.” Conversely, “carrots” are the rewards attributed to timely completion such as raises and promotions.
A quick peek into a leader’s day reveals a very different career building Accountability muscle. Their activities have few obvious deadlines. Most of the projects they touch do not yield measurable outputs immediately. Yet, the future profitability of the organization emerges from their activities. Much of a leader’s success comes from focusing on areas of the business where they aren’t being evaluated or where they won’t win a gold star for “today”; but they know if they don’t work on these critical activities “today,” there will be no gold star “tomorrow” for themselves or the organization.
The rules change dramatically as you take on additional responsibility. You limit your future growth if you hold on to a narrow External Accountability view of work which you mastered early in your career. You need to expand by adding Internal Accountability to your arsenal. It is the separating quality that enables you to stand out.
Where are you most at ease? Are you great at completing tasks consigned to you, but not so great at completing work you identify as needing to be done? You know the promises you’ve made to yourself about correcting a process breakdown no one else has noticed. Or perhaps, you need to address customer concerns that require real-time-now-solutions that have not been recognized as a problem by others as yet. This is you exhibiting Internal Accountability.
Keeping promises both to others and yourself is an indispensable foundation for a vital career. You always measure yourself against everything you say and do. You can’t help it. This is where that little knowing part of your being determines whether you are worthy or not; where it determines whether you deserve the keys to the kingdom or not; where your power resides to be turned on or not.
If you believe you are not acting like you say you will; it diminishes the you the outside world experiences. This limits your future. Without being Internally Accountable, you consistently erode your effectiveness. When your words and activities don’t align, you are perceived as weak or unworthy or ultimately untrustworthy in your mind as well as others—and trust is a foundational element for your advancement.
Both External and Internal Accountability are essential to having a successful career. Is your Accountability muscle more robust on one side than the other? Remember, it is hard to achieve your dreams when you are not keeping promises to yourself. Your future does rest in your hands.
P.S. If you found this topic interesting and want to dig deeper, click on the link below to read a longer excerpt pulled straight from a book Shari Lewison and I are writing for women: