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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 1, 2010

Workers can benefit by taking responsibility for errors


By Anita Bruzzese

When ex-baseball player Mark McGwire recently admitted taking performance-enhancing steroids during his career, critics said his truthfulness fell short when he contended he still could have hit his record-breaking number of home runs without the drugs.

Failing to accept complete personal responsibility without excuses or addendums is a practice that's infected every nook and cranny of our society today, including the workplace, says Linda Galindo, an executive coach and accountability expert.

"Mark McGwire is an example of someone who tries to explain away why he did what he did," Galindo says. "When you do something like that, your authenticity starts to be diminished."

Real accountability, Galindo says, means that you take ownership of your results good or bad and don't point the finger at anyone else. It means if you make a mistake, "you say what you did and what you learned from it and what you'll do differently in the future," she says.

If you're on the slippery slope of evasiveness, she says, you end up spending more energy dodging honesty than you do taking responsibility and learning from your experiences, she says.

Still, Galindo acknowledges that in this bad job market workers may fear being fired if they do admit a mistake. But she says taking on personal accountability can actually help a career. She says shifting blame, telling lies and dodging questions won't keep the truth from emerging later. Further, a boss may be even more irritated by the evasion and the time lost trying to track down the real story and fire you for not owning up to it in the first place.

If you make a mistake, Galindo recommends telling the boss that you want to take ownership of the situation, but you'd like some time to assess where you went wrong, and some solutions to the problem, she advises. Always make it clear to the boss, she says, "that you want to be there, and you want your job and you want to do better," she says.

Galindo, author of "The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success" (Jossey-Bass, $22.95), says employees feeling more pressure to perform can use personal accountability to actually make their lives less stressful and gain clarity about their career.

"You end up paying over and over again for not being accountable. You have to decide that you're going to step up and answer for your results," she says.

Write to Anita Bruzzese c/o Gannett ContentOne, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22107.