“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
The trick is not holding other people accountable – but holding yourself accountable. It’s the central starting point of developing an appropriate professional mindset. Recognizing that you are personally responsible for your actions and results (or lack thereof) delivered to clients.
You must strive to do the best you can in all situations. While it will make a difference in the quality of the work you produce, more importantly it makes a difference in you. Pushing yourself to deliver better work, better services, better solutions will allow you to self-create new challenges and excitement in your job. It will help keep monotony and routine at bay.
Rodger Dean Duncan, a strategic management consultant, often places accountability in the context of a ladder – with those people with a low level of accountability on the lower half of the ladder, and top performers with high levels of accountability at the top. At the very bottom are people completely unaware of the fact that personal accountability is even necessary part of success. If you’re a lawyer or law student at the “unaware” level, there’s probably no helping you at this point – sorry. If someone in your firm is at the base of the ladder, save yourself the a headache and go ahead and fire them.
If you find yourself on the lower half of the ladder, you need to change. You are never going to get hired or progress in your job if you cannot move higher up the ladder. This is where people are playing the blame game instead of addressing problems and finding solutions. People believe that outside circumstances are the only things that determine their success.
- “It’s not my fault!”
- “How could I have known?”
- “No one told me it was supposed to be done that way!”
It’s also were self-defeating attitudes live. Where people believe that they are luckless losers. That nothing they do can ever be done right. They’re going to be screw-ups no matter what they do.
To move past these lower rungs of the ladder, you have to manage yourself. To hold yourself accountable for your work and your life. You will have to ask yourself some hard questions:
- Who am I really? Am I someone who is going to coast along or claw my way ahead?
- What are my core values? Not the ones I give lip service but that are actually expressed in private moments? Are they actually expressed in my work?
- Where do I feel as though I belong? Where do I not belong?
People who know immediately know their answers to these questions are likely at the top half of the ladder. People who function from the upper half of the ladder go out of their way to take ownership of problems and situations they face. The concept of ownership is an important one – if you own something, you are responsible for it. You have to want to own problems that arise in your job (your life really) because it places the responsibility for solving the problem squarely on your shoulders. No one else is going to solve it for you.
At the highest rung of the ladder are people who “make it happen.” Duncan describes their commitment as relentless not ruthless. Yet often times “make it happen” people exhibit both these qualities. They get results no matter what it takes. Duncan believes that “make it happen” people are “worth their weight in gold because they know that things happen because of them, not to them.”
Maybe you feel down on your luck in law school. Or that the job at your firm sucks. Or that your solo practice is struggling. Maybe you don’t even have a job.
If you find yourself in these situations it is imperative that you ask yourself:
“Did this happen to me or because of me?”
Choose the latter. Because then you can decide to make something else happen instead.