Account managers are loaded to the brim with all sorts of responsibility: to keep your clients happy; make your agency money; communicate well and regularly; ensure your projects are completed to brief, on time and on-budget; and the list goes on. Your responsibilities will change as you move through your career, but your attitude toward accountability should be the same throughout.
It's easiest to think about responsibility as the 'before', and accountability as the 'after' (whilst also noting that the two words are often interchanged). Responsibility acknowledges that you have been given a measure of control, management or influence over people and/or tasks, and that you understand the buck stops firmly and squarely with you for all the work that you handle. Accountability says that you are willing to accept the consequences of your choices, actions and behaviours.
Why accountability is important
It builds relationships. Being answerable for your actions will help to produce better and more positive social interactions with your colleagues and clients. It shows that you respect the people you work with, and do all you can to ensure all projects run smoothly for everyone involved.
It builds trust. People will learn that they can depend on you and trust you to keep your word, and that you have their backs.
It can save you time and money. If you know something isn't right, you are going to speak up, take ownership of the situation, and look for a solution. This will help stop the situation from getting worse, and will stop costs and delays from escalating.
It can boost your chance for a promotion. Showing that you are responsible and accountable also shows you are dependable, and that will mark you as someone with leadership potential.
Ways you can become more accountable
'Responsibility' and 'accountability' are not things you are naturally born with. Responsibility is something you are either given, or that you choose to take on. Accountability is a conscious decision you make that requires a foundation of maturity and integrity. The skills involved in being responsible and accountable are things you can learn and develop over time. Here are ways to help with that learning curve:
Know your role. It's tough to know what you are being held accountable for until you know what you are responsible for. If you do not have one already, you should request a detailed job description, and ask your manager to clearly define your responsibilities within your team.
Be honest. If you make a mistake, own up to it; and if you are struggling, ask for help so that you don't let your team, clients or suppliers down.
Never make excuses or play the blame-game. If you are responsible for something, you are also accountable for it. This means that, no matter who may have let you down, you are the one who fronts up, apologises, and deals with the consequences without trying to throw anyone else under the bus. You are the one who needs to do your best to make things right.
Don't put off until tomorrow... Procrastination can be an effective way to avoid taking responsibility. You may think that if you put something off for long enough, someone else will deal with the issue or it will miraculously go away. Part of taking responsibility is understanding that if you have been tasked to do something, then you should do it (or have a very good reason for delegating the job to another person). If you don't, you end up teaching your colleagues that they can't rely on you, which is disruptive and detrimental to team dynamics, workflow, and your professional reputation.
Keep juggling. If you overcommit yourself, the chances are high that the balls you juggle will fall; and each time you drop a ball, you let at least one person down. You are both responsible for keeping all balls in the air, and accountable when they fall.
Use accountability as a learning tool. When something doesn't go quite to plan, demonstrating accountability can open up all sorts of learning opportunities. The biggest lesson you'll learn is how to figure out ways to do things differently in the future.
Embrace the opportunity
Being given responsibility is a compliment, not a burden! It says that your manager trusts you and believes in your ability to do the job well.
Taking on more or greater responsibility is a great way to show your manager that you are keen, ambitious to learn and advance, and that you want to be an asset to your agency.
Throughout your career you will be given responsibility that is going to stretch and challenge you. You may not think you can do the job, but your manager does; she may see qualities or abilities in you that you can't yet see in yourself; or she can see your potential, and that is just as exciting. Even if you find the prospect of more responsibility somewhat daunting, embrace the opportunity with both arms - you never know where the journey will take you!
Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.
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