What Are You Accountable For?

Many people list their former job responsibilities on their resume. I suggest in lieu of responsibilities, you list accountabilities. Unfortunately, that often causes quizzical looks.

I believe that the term accountability has gotten a bad rap. These days, about the only time you hear “accountable” is when something has gone wrong and there is a call to see who will be held accountable. In other words, who will be punished because they didn’t do their job right? Or, maybe they are the leader of an organization that was not successful and regardless of the circumstances, it was their fault. Accountability is used a bit like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland shouting “Off with their heads.” If being accountable means that if you fail you are punished, why would anyone want to be accountable?

According to Andy Wood and Bruce Winston, accountability is much more than that. Accountability is a combination of the individual’s willingness to accept the responsibility, her openness in relation to her actions, and the understanding that she will be answerable to her constituents. From an overall business perspective, there is much more to accountability than punishment for failure, but let’s take this back to your resume.

A responsibility statement only states what you were supposed to do. An accountability statement says what you did do. A person typically won’t be punished for managing a call center. A person might be held accountable for managing an outbound call center with 25 operators making 10,000 calls per week and generating $35 million in annual sales. The accountability statement combines the responsibility – managing the call center – with the expected (or even better yet, the actual) results. Now that responsibility has context and scope.

Here’s another example. A Restaurant Server might be responsible for taking customer’s orders. But, he might be accountable for taking order from 37 tables per shift with an average daily revenue of $4,400. This accountability statement says so much more about the amount of work that was completed, and about the person that completed it.

Update your resume and make sure you are not just talking about what you were supposed to do. Instead, proudly state what you were held accountable to do – because if you did that for another organization, you can do that for the next one too.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.