Is the counter offer all it seems?

A counter offer is often used by employers to try and tempt someone who has just resigned to stay with the company. Handling such offers can be a delicate situation and requires careful consideration.

Examine your initial reasons for wanting to leave; often the reasons people make job changes are for issues other than money. If this is the case, then it is likely you will return to those same issues after the initial glow of more money and feeling appreciated by your current company wears off. On the other hand, if money, or not feeling appreciated was the primary reason for making a change, you might be happy with accepting the counter offer. It is a good idea to list out the pros and cons for each opportunity and discuss these with someone whose opinion you value.

Consider the risks

While there are risks in going into a new position with a new organisation, there are also risks in accepting a counter offer. Depending upon the relationship you have with your management team, and the corporate culture at your present company, accepting a counter offer could change how you are viewed. There is the possibility of being seen as disloyal, and if the outside offer came at a very crucial time — say, when losing you would have been disastrous to a vital project or the bottom line — you may cause some animosity if the employer feels there is no choice but to counter offer to keep you on board. These feelings could pass in time, but it is also possible for you to be targeted for replacement, or passed over for promotion, important projects etc. at a time when it is more convenient for your current employer. This scenario assumes that you have not yet accepted the offer from the new employer, and your current employer, learning of your potential departure, makes you a counter offer. If, however, you have already accepted an offer from the new employer, it would be considered somewhat unethical to withdraw your acceptance based upon a counter offer from your current employer.

So what now?

You still have to do what is right for you. In the end, after weighing all the factors and discussing them with family members, close friends or a mentor, you will need to make a decision. Ultimately, you need to do what is in your best short- and long-term interests. And usually, what is appropriate for one party is appropriate for both parties concerned — even if not always apparent at first.

The dreaded group interview – what to expect and how to prepare

Although group interviews are not common, there are a number of companies that like using this method of selecting the right candidate and it’s worth knowing how to approach them. Continue reading “The dreaded group interview – what to expect and how to prepare”

Had a job offer … but don’t want to accept?

So you have been through a few rounds of interviews, you feel flattered by the attention and (possibly sooner than expected) you have been offered the job.

Great! But wait …. you’re not sure this is the dream job for you. What next?

There could be a whole host of reasons that you have come this far, but do not want to proceed:

  • Maybe the interview process has been haphazard – perhaps long gaps in between interviews (how urgent is this?), no feedback from meetings (do they value their staff?), seemingly round after round of interviews, tests and meetings (do they know what they want or are they indecisive?)
  • Maybe during the interview process the company has had negative press – could be anything from an industrial tribunal to poor results reported – or the position’s circumstances have changed. Perhaps your future line manager has left the business or the company is going through a restructure.
  • Maybe you have not been entirely honest with yourself and the business. Perhaps you have no intention of leaving your current business and you were just ‘kicking tyres’.
  • Maybe the offer is so under par, that there is no point in negotiating, because you feel that this is an indication of how they value the position.

Whatever it might be, you need to extract yourself gracefully (ideally without burning any bridges because you do not know when you might come across the decision makers again – retail is a small world), whilst also staying true to yourself. In other words give them the real reason, rather than a feeble excuse.

Expect them to try and persuade you to change your mind, after all they have made a significant investment in time to arrive at this point, so make certain when you decline an offer you give them a precise and concise reason, from which you cannot and will not be swayed. And apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Some are easy, for example: “the company’s recent annual results are a real surprise to me and I feel that I have been misled or have misunderstood the business’ current trading performance. I have set myself the target to join a growing business, rather than a turnaround”.

Others are more difficult: “I feel that the position is not significantly different from the one I have currently and know that my prospects for promotion are greater where I am”.

Or: “On reflection, I have misgivings about the fact that the company culture is so different than I am used to, and I’m concerned that this appointment will not work out for either you or me”.

My advice is to make sure that the reason for turning the offer down, cannot be (easily) rectified. If it is about money, they may offer you more. If it is about not being able to work from home, they may offer you that concession.

The financial state of their business or current performance, the company culture or the lack of available progression are not easily fixed…

Need help? Call me!

How to turn a job interview into a conversation

It seems to be ingrained in many people that job interviews are something you need to do well at – you need to impress, you want to show your best side and hopefully you will progress to the next round.  And I wouldn’t disagree. So prepare accordingly (and read my previous blog Interview tips).

What most people tend to forget is that an interview is the main opportunity to do your due diligence on the company, the job, the culture and your potential future boss.

Remarkably, most people are judged not by the answers they give, but by the type of questions they ask. If you have conducted interviews, have you ever said about a candidate “She asked all the right questions”?

There you go, someone stood out because they asked good questions, because they really wanted to know whether this opportunity is right for them.

Therefore, in preparation for an interview, tell yourself that by the end of the meeting, you need to have gathered enough information to decide whether you want to go forward to the next round.

So what do you need to know?

I guess a starting point is the company culture. Questions like:

How are the company’s results communicated with the workforce?
What is the dress code?
Are you aware whether colleagues socialise with each other outside of work?
Does the company hold team events?
Does the company support a charity, if so which one and how?
If I asked one of my future colleagues to describe the company culture, what words would they use?

To find out more about the job itself and your potential boss, you could ask:

If I were to join the business, what would your expectations be of me during the first 3 months?
What do I need to have achieved in the first 6 months? And in the first year?
What obstacles or bottle necks can I expect to encounter?
Are you aware of any ‘problems’ within the team I am about to manage or join?
What support can I expect from you? And how much autonomy?
What background, experience and skill sets would the ideal person for this position have? (Check where you fall short and ask whether that is an issue)
How open is the company to my learning and development?
Why is this position open? And, if appropriate, where did the previous incumbent fall short?
What made you decide to join the business and what are your plans for the future?

The thing to remember is that no one likes to be interrogated, so you will need to practise the art of conversation so that the interview feels like a two way stream of information and rapport is developed along the way. Frankly, if the interviewer does not want to have a conversation or just wants to stick to their set questionnaire, you really should ask yourself if this is the right business for you.

Happy to help you prepare, just ask me!

Maarten Jonckers

Procrastination is an inherited trait – but you can beat it

We loved this article from careers expert Zena Everett and are re-publishing it with her permission.

There’s nothing like exam time to highlight our universal tendency to procrastinate. Colouring in a revision diary instead of actually revising, or in my case when studying a mid-career masters, developing a daily desire to polish my oven before opening up my laptop.

Recently I caught myself watching a YouTube clip on how to get out of quicksand, when I was supposedly doing some real research, ironically on productivity tools.

We procrastinate over tasks at work and also about starting difficult conversations at home, getting medical symptoms checked out, speaking up in meetings and making life decisions. This causes frustration, inertia, stress and regret.

I have two Crazy Busy principles for getting stuff done:

1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
2. Spending a long time on something does not make it important.

So why do we faff around, preparing to start, rather than just … starting?

Procrastination is a lifelong trait and researchers have found that it is in our genes: a tendency to procrastinate runs in families. That doesn’t mean we’re stuck with it, but the fix is more complicated than ‘just do it’.

It isn’t the task itself that’s the blocker, it is the transition to getting started that we need to work on.

Here’s two reasons why we delay starting, one psychological and one practical:

[mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h2″ style=”true” color=”#393836″ size=”18″ font_weight=”inhert” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” align=”left”]1. Fear of Failure[/mk_fancy_title]

You are paralysed by your perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionists aren’t trying to be perfect – they just feel that nothing they do is ever good enough.

Do you like to do everything at the last minute, right up to the deadline?

You’ve got an important report to write, due in by Friday morning. If you block out time early in the week to write and edit it, you stand a fair chance of producing a decent quality document. If you do it over Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning, you are giving yourself a get-out clause for a sub-standard result, ‘If I only had more time, it would have been perfect.’

You are protecting yourself from the fear of failure. If you’d wholeheartedly thrown yourself into writing the report, and it still wasn’t up to your uncompromisingly high standards, you’d have to deal with that. This way, your perfectionist tendencies have held you back, protecting you from facing up to your perceived sub-standard performance and failures.

Rather than giving you a safety net, this avoidance behaviour creates even more stress and anxiety.

Your delaying and last minute approach probably creates stress for the people you work with too.


– Untangle your performance from your self-esteem: see yourself as more than just your achievements; there is more to your identity than that.

– Decide when only outstanding performance will do and when to aim for average performance. In most cases average is perfectly fine.

WHAT you do is significantly important than HOW you do it.

[mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h2″ style=”true” color=”#393836″ size=”18″ font_weight=”inhert” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” align=”left”]2. You haven’t planned the task into your diary[/mk_fancy_title]

If work isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t get done. Most of spend our day driven by what’s screaming out in front of us – usually our inbox. Vital tasks get fitted in around the sides. Our diary is full of meetings, not real work.

How we spend our day can depend on our mood and what we feel ready to take on. We have a slow build up to getting ready, regardless of our intentions.


– Block out time to do priority tasks, in the same way you schedule meetings. Make sure you have all the resources you need and start it on time. If you are in an open plan office you may have to go to a quiet location where you aren’t interrupted. At the very least, shut down all message pop-ups. Try it for 60 minutes and see what you get done and if the world can cope without access to you.

– Design a routine and stick to it. Don’t wait until you are in the mood. Start your task and your mood will catch up. Structure your day in a disciplined way so you can be as effective as possible. Aim for 90 to 120 minutes a day of deep ‘flow’ working on challenging tasks that will make significant impact. Allow time to get a few quick tasks and conversations done each day to get your energy going, then drop into scheduled flow working.

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what to do first, or the task/project seems overwhelming. Your first chunk of time can be for figuring out how to do it and making a plan.

This is taken from Zena Everett’s new book, Crazy Busy: How to get more done in a day than you do now in a week. It is available in print versions from her website and Amazon. If you would like a FREE digital version, please email 

Zena runs 90 minute Crazy Busy events in organisations, leading to increased productivity and team collaboration.

Are you a bull or a butterfly?

Do you have a career plan or are you just floating along?

As an executive search consultant, some of the biggest regrets people tell me about are:

1. I have stayed too long with the same company (because it was comfortable and although they offered me new challenges every few years, it did not actually enhance my experience or career)

2. I wish I had cultivated a relevant network, now that I am looking for a new job

If your ultimate goal is to have fun and see where it takes you and to have only worked for businesses that are interesting and where you have a pleasant time, then perhaps drifting along and being opportunistic concerning job opportunities could be the strategy for you. Rather like a fun road trip to southern Italy, without a set destination, just following the sun.

However, if you know where you want to be by the time your career peaks in terms of position, size of company, size of team, location (international?), remuneration, etc. then you need to plan your career journey, and you need to start with the end goal in mind. Are you the person who wouldn’t drive to southern Italy without looking at a map or at least taking a SatNav, making sure you have enough money for petrol, European breakdown service, an idea of hotel cost and location?

When it comes to planning your career, it’s much the same philosophy: Define your current role, autonomy, budget controls, kpi’s and take an estimated guess at what parameters your final destination job will have. Now that you know the gap between the two, you can start to make a plan for building experience in the relevant areas.

Questions to ask yourself will be:
• What do I need to do to move from an area manager to a regional manager position? (e.g. can I deputise for the regional manager when she is on holiday and what do I need to do to make sure that I succeed in this temporary role and get noticed?)
• How do I gain experience of managing a bigger team?
• What project work can I do to gain the experience to move from management accountant to financial controller or from digital marketer to head of ecommerce?
• Will my current employer offer me the opportunity to gain the additional knowledge and experience required to take the next step up?

Invariably you will run out of runway in your current business and that’s the time to find a new company with a longer runway – not necessarily one who pays more money (although that would be nice).

For the new employer it should be a huge benefit to hear that their new recruit did not just join for the money or the bigger car or the shorter commute. They need to understand that if they help you manage your career and help you develop, you will add value to the business over many years to come and ideally in a number of different roles. (If they think that this is an issue and really just want someone to do the job that they are recruiting for then this is probably not the business for you.)

Remember, to succeed in a role, you need clear (and measurable) objectives, if you cannot keep score than it is difficult to measure whether you are keeping on track with your career goals (it would be like driving to southern Italy without a fuel gauge or speedometer – how do you know when you need to fill up?).

Find yourself a senior mentor, who will challenge and direct, who will praise, listen and give advice. This will be an invaluable sounding board and sense check, however make sure that this person has all the knowledge, experience or contacts that you feel you need! If someone asks you where you want to be in 5 years’ time, don’t be ashamed to say that you have not given it much thought yet because you need to master your current role first.

It is much worse to answer: ‘Managing Director’, but on further questioning having to admit that you have taken no steps in order to get there and really it is a pipe dream rather than a well thought out plan.

Finally, when you use a recruiter/executive search consultant/head hunter for your next role and they omit to ask you about your career goals, your ‘runway’ and what additional experience you would gain if you stayed in your current role, then the chances are that they are trying to sell you a job.

Any self-respecting professional in the recruiting industry plays the long game, they should be there to help you and advise you on the best career options, so that they can place you (again and again..!).

6 things to do before you start your new job

You have resigned, your departure has been announced, you have sorted out your holiday entitlement, bonuses and share options. You have agreed a handover date for your company car and laptop, and who you will hand over your current projects to.

But that’s only half the story. Generally, once you have completed 50% of your notice period, you start to think more and more about your new company, role, colleagues and challenges. Here are a few pointers of what you ought to do (or at least think about) before you start your new job.

  1. Ask your new manager whether it is possible to meet your new colleagues, ahead of your start date. A social setting (lunch) is often a good way of getting to know people, so that you have a head start on day one. Just a quick note here; if it is a social setting, restrict yourself to one glass of wine / pint of beer. You are still being judged and unless you are joining a brewery, it is probably wise to stay in control. Actually, even if you are joining a brewery you want to stay in control.
  2. Is there any reading material you can have before your start date, ie company reports, meeting minutes, project updates, etc? Anything that will give you a head start and (I think more importantly) will create a positive impression before you start.
  3. Are there any company meetings you can attend?
  4. A week before you are due to start, ask for your induction programme. You really just want to know that there is one and that the new company are preparing your welcome. You hear of stories where the new starter has to find a desk, a chair and a phone. You don’t want to be that person.
  5. Speak with HR and understand how and when you will be receiving your company car, laptop, mobile, etc.
  6. Speak with your new boss and agree what time you should turn up on day one. You may always arrive at work for a 08.00am start, however if your boss only ever arrives at 08.30am, then you certainly do not want to show them up on day one. Probably not on day two either, so ask whether they mind you arriving early.

Tasks for the first week

  • At the end of week one, make sure to schedule a quick review meeting with your manager. You’re looking for early feedback here (at this stage, you can only give positive comments about your first few days, you can critique at a later day, just not now) and you need to understand what is expected of you.
  • Let’s have in writing (again an email will do), what you have agreed to accomplish in month 1, quarter 1 and the first 6 months. This will give you a framework, will give you an element of control and something to be measured by.

Read our article on what to do during your notice period … and what not!

Working your notice period – what to do … and what not!

You have resigned, you may or may not have been counter offered, however you have done the right thing and have not given in to the temptation to stay where you are. You now seem to be in that strange area of “no man’s land”, whilst working your notice.

In the first few days and maybe weeks, you still feel (a sometimes) strong loyalty to the company, colleagues and boss who you are set to leave, however as the clock keeps ticking, so that loyalty erodes and you find yourself in a situation where you really now want to move on to pastures new and your enthusiasm for going into work each day starts to wane…

Rather than being taken over by events, it may help you to feel in control of your situation and the following To-Do list (and To-Don’t-Do list) will help you do that:

1. Your resignation has been accepted and a leaving date has been agreed.

2. First things first, agree with your manager how and when your departure will be announced and by whom. I know it will be difficult, however some restraint is required here. Do not tell anyone before it is announced (not even your PA or most trusted colleague) – if it leaks, it won’t be contained and there will be only one person blamed for the leak. You just cannot afford to put your manager’s back up at this stage as you will still need him as a reference.

3. Next make sure you agree what holiday entitlement you still have, are you going to take some to make up the last few days or weeks of your notice period?
a. This is a great idea, it will allow you to re-charge the batteries, mentally severe any emotional ties with the old place and start to prepare for the new place.
b. If you are going to be paid out for the holiday entitlement, make sure to agree with HR the exact number of days and the amount that is due (you don’t want to sort any discrepancies out when you have just started a new job. Best to get it sorted before you leave).

4. Will you be due any bonus? Again, make certain to agree exactly how much and when it will be paid. If the bonus payment is not due for some time after your leaving date, you may want to consider doing a deal with the company, ie pay me slightly less bonus than I’m entitled to, however pay it in my last pay check please. When you have received it, it is difficult to take away, whereas in a few months’ time, should there be a regime change, you may have to fight for that bonus to be paid…

5. And the same goes for share options. There are a whole lot of different schemes, so difficult to give one universal piece of advice, other than: make sure you have agreed what happens to your options and have it in writing before you leave!

6. Car, laptop, phone, company credit card, keys to the company flat, etc. Don’t just assume you’re to hand everything in on the last day. Take the initiative and speak with HR to agree a hand over, that way you are (or at least you feel) in control of the process.

7. And then it comes to the actual work, make sure to agree (in writing – an email will do) with your boss what work needs to be completed and by when, what projects need to be handed over and to whom, agree how completion or hand over is measured. You do not want to be in a situation where you are regarded as a poor leaver, because they feel that your work was sub-standard or the hand over was rushed…You are the ultimate professional and you want to be remembered as just that.

8. Agree with you manager and IT, which files to leave on your laptop / PC and which to delete. I’m assuming that you have copied anything worthwhile before you resigned – I’m not condoning it, but human nature is human nature…

9. Finally, if there is a farewell or leaving party, make sure to be gracious to the end (even to that money grabbing, non-PC senior director). You never know where you will come across your soon to be ex-colleagues again, so do not burn any bridges!

What you do NOT want to do is:

a. Take sick leave – however bad that hangover, man flu or broken leg, drag yourself into the office, because even if you are genuinely ill, you’ll be judged as skiving. Go in and let your boss send you home. Reputations are not made during notice periods, however they are very easy to lose…

b. Materially change your working hours, if you’re always at your desk at 8am, don’t start arriving at 9am. Make sure people believe that you are fully committed to the bitter end (even if you are not).

c. Increase your expense claim pattern. You’re leaving, chances are that you are entertaining less clients, travel less and therefore spend less. A material increase in your monthly expense may be totally justified, however it is rarely seen as that. Kerb it.

d. Talk incessantly about you leaving, your new job, salary, car or circumstances. You don’t want to be seen as causing dissatisfaction amongst your colleagues and they will soon tire from hearing about your future.

e. Voice a negative opinion about your current business, it will sound like sour grapes and it is ugly. Just don’t.

f. Surf the internet at work for your own pleasure, even if that is what you have always done…Your internet usage may be monitored by IT, any policy breaches may result in dismissal, which in itself may jeopardise your new job….Be really careful with this one.

g. Steal / borrow stationery for use at home (as in above, it could have nasty consequences).

Want to discuss further or you feel you need advice? Give me a ring!

How to manage a team that is older than you…

Picture this – it is 1984 and like so many Business School graduates, I found myself a job with the objective to climb the greasy pole as quickly as I possibly could.

My first job took me out of Europe to South Africa, where, after a training and induction programme, I was to manage an out of town furniture store with its own distribution facility for home deliveries (we’re talking a type of IKEA operation but smaller) – a total of 120 staff, managed through a team of 5 direct reports. I had worked in the furniture sector before, so this was familiar territory and I was ready for this. This was why I had done Business School, right? I was 23 years old.…and conveniently forgetting about a language barrier (my English was passable but by no means fluent), a cultural barrier and the dreaded age barrier.

My excitement carried me through my first few days on the job. I was exceedingly polite, cheerful, and helpful toward the much older team I was sent in to manage. My job was progressing wonderfully until one member of the team, at least 20 years my senior, interrupted me mid-sentence and asked with barely concealed passive aggressiveness, “How old are you?”

“How old are you?”

There were clearly so many other issues I grappled with in the first few days, that I hadn’t expected that question, therefore it stopped me dead in my tracks. I was surprised how much it hurt and how personally I took it.
Over the next few weeks, the age references kept coming. I heard everything from “You’re younger than my grandson” to “Are you old enough to drive?” and “The cleaners did not come in today, would you mind doing the toilets?”

No respect, and although my hair was rapidly thinning, I couldn’t exactly fake wrinkles.

Although initially disheartened that my age was undermining me at work, I was determined that it would not affect my performance. I’d like to say that I figured it all out and managed the situation like a pro, however this turned out to be the school of hard knocks and I made many, many mistakes – some small, others now cringe worthy. That said, with the benefit of hindsight, I discovered some valuable insights.

1. Two ears, one mouth. Use them in that ratio.

Know when to listen and when to speak (and speaking last takes a real effort and is a skill not to be underestimated). In early conversations I had with team members, my mind would fast forward to the points I felt I needed to make to prove that I was capable. After a while, I came to the realisation that others felt their ideas and opinions were being glossed over and dismissed. It took a conscious effort to quiet the voice in my head that wanted to prove itself, however really listening to others and questioning their ideas was worth the effort. If your colleagues feel valued, respected, and heard, they’ll notice your maturity, not your age.

2. Know your staff.

Although older doesn’t always mean wiser, it does usually mean more experienced. You need to figure out the strengths of each individual and leverage it. Once you know their talents and strengths, you can turn to them when faced with certain issues or problems. They will look good and you will shine brighter as a leader when each individual member of your team is given the encouragement and tools to perform in the spot light.

3. Let’s get the job done, why focus on the process?

Each person delivers their best work under a different set of circumstances. Let’s pay attention to your team members’ needs and see whether they can be fulfilled. We used to work in a noisy, large open plan office, however I had an employee who required absolute silence in order to concentrate. I couldn’t understand that process, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt—she got one of the meeting rooms as an office so that she could work in solitude, and the rest of the team would catch up over coffee with her twice a day. In the end, her work was exceptional, so why not?
Surrender your ego, and put the team’s ability to succeed first.

4. Be bold about your age

The good news is that is now illegal for someone to ask your age in the workplace. The bad news is that people ask it anyway. Bearing that in mind, give some thought to how you want to answer the inevitable question so you don’t get caught off guard. If they see you looking like a rabbit in headlights, you’ll run the risk that you confirm their suspicion that you might be faking it until you can make it.
If you are comfortable with sharing, go ahead, otherwise “old enough to do the job” will suffice! Whichever way, just be prepared for the question, answer it with confidence, and move on. Don’t let it become a subject for continued speculation.

5. Be cool, calm and collected.

All too often, the mood in the office is dictated by the manager’s temperament. If you’re stressed, you’ll easily become irritable and you might find it difficult to concentrate. The problem is that if you are young (and less experienced in leading others) your age will soon be blamed if you show your frustration, even though managers of all ages share this trait. However the real danger is that your team may look for de facto leadership elsewhere in the business.

The end result is, that if you are chaotic and unsure of yourself, your staff will pick up on it. If you can be a source of calm and reason for your team, your age won’t matter.

6. Gain respect, don’t seek approval

Was it Machiavelli who said he would rather be feared than loved? Although I wouldn’t advice instilling fear in your employees, I think there is a difference between respect and love, and when it comes to employees’ treatment of the manager, a healthy amount of respect is always best.

Your office is not the time or place for you to find your new best friend or workout partner. If you are driven by the need to be liked, your employees will inevitably start to wonder who is actually in charge Have clear parameters for behaviour. Speak up when people cross boundaries, if you don’t then other employees will notice. Although seemingly insignificant at the time, seeking the approval or acceptance of your staff gives the impression that you are a pushover, or worse, that you are scared of offending them.

Finally, remember that you may be young, but if you are in a leadership position, it is likely because you have devoted your life thus far to refining your career and ability. There is an anecdote about a lady who saw Picasso briefly doodling on a napkin in a restaurant: She asked to buy it from him, and he said, “sure, that will be $100,000.” She was aghast at the price tag, and commented that it had only taken him five minutes to create the drawing. Picasso responded, “No, it took 30 years of experience to draw that.”

Never allow others’ perceptions of age dilute the value of the life-long hours you have devoted to your gift, your skill, and your leadership.

Using the Accountability Ladder to achieve career goals

If you want to be successful in your career, you can’t just wait for it to happen. You need to take ownership and make it happen. The Accountability Ladder explains the steps between being powerless and achieving success. It is essentially 8 rungs of a ladder divided in half. The bottom 4 describe a ‘victim mentality’ and the top 4 lead the way to accepting responsibility and becoming empowered.

A simple way of explaining it is to imagine a child who hasn’t done their homework. Picture this scenario as the child explains the situation to their parent at 7pm on Wednesday evening:

  1. “My friend just told me my homework is due tomorrow, but I didn’t know” (unaware/denial)
  2. “The teacher didn’t remind me” (blame others)
  3. “It’s too late now. What’s the point” (can’t do anything/excuses)
  4. “I’ll just have to hope the teacher forgets about it” (wait and hope)

This child has a victim mentality. They are not taking responsibility or trying to find a solution. However, in the same situation it could go like this:

5. “Oh no, my homework is due tomorrow” (acknowledge reality)
6. “I’ve messed up. I should have checked my planner” (own it, don’t blame others)
7. “I’ve still got time. I’ll just have to stay up late” (find a solution)
8. “Would you mind giving me a hand to get this done quickly” (make it happen)

This child has taken ownership of the problem and will do what it takes to get the task done.

Ladder of Accountability

It’s easy to translate this to the adult world of work. Perhaps you know somebody in your organisation who always seems to be in control, who is a ‘can do’ person. Alternatively you may know somebody who doesn’t pull their weight, who blames others and shirks responsibility.

If you want to progress in your career you need to be on rungs 4 to 8 of the ladder and start to identify what it is you want to achieve. Let’s imagine you’re stuck in a junior management role but want to be in a senior management role. Rather than complaining that you keep getting looked over for promotion, you need to assess why. Is it because you are lacking skills? Or there are no opportunities within your current organisation? Once you know what you’re dealing with (acknowledge reality) you can decide to do something (own it), plan what you’re going to do about it (find a solution), and take action (make it happen).

For more on this, read Do You Have a Career Destination in Mind?