Agency Life: The importance of accountability
by TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) Accountability. It’s one of those words that you usually only hear when something’s gone wrong and someone needs to take the fall. Although it’s a word that rarely brings up positive sentiment, accountability is a crucial component to making sure that agencies get the job done — and done well. It’s also how you may grow and develop yourself, by adding value, and getting more responsibility for doing so.
There are far worse words in adland language, such as “You have to work this weekend”, or “Push it further”, or “I’m not a creative, but…”. Accountability, however, is one of those things that may really help you if you do it right by building a reputation of being reliable, efficient, and able to handle more responsibility. Here are a few tips to help you be more accountable:
Sweat the small stuff
The first place to start is with the small things. Be on time for meetings. And on time doesn’t mean when the meeting starts but a little earlier so you will be ready for the meeting to start when it’s supposed to.
As ad people, it’s kind of expected of us that we party until the break of dawn and carry on until breakfast. But, when you have work the next day, it’s not a good look to arrive wearing the night before all over you, or not rocking up at all.
Make sure you follow processes. Help out wherever you can, but also know when to say no if helping out will be a distraction or will become more of a priority than what you’re meant to be doing.
These may seem like small actions, but the more you consistently hold yourself accountable, the more you’ll build a reputation of being reliable.
Responsibility is taken before it’s given
When challenges come up in an agency, you get three kinds of people: some who have a don’t-know-don’t-care attitude; some point a finger at someone else faster than a Wild West shootout, or simply throw you under the bus; and then there are the few who take responsibility.
But taking responsibility is only the first step. The second step is to take action to solve the problem as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Similarly, when something good happens in an agency, there are three kinds of people: those who don’t know and don’t care; those who get salty (haters gonna hate); and those who are responsible for the success. If you show responsibility when things are going well and also when they’re not, you’ll be positioning yourself as a problem-solver, which might just get more responsibility given to you.
Trust strengthens or weakens relationships
If you’re constantly late for meetings and often arrive unprepared, how can you negotiate for an increase? If you’re always micro-managing and blame your juniors for your mistakes, how can they ever trust you? You’ll always be second-guessed, and everyone else will be working twice as hard because they’ll be planning a Plan B based on you not delivering.
On the flip side, if you’re always on your A-game, or you always deliver what’s required (and then some), who wouldn’t trust you when it’s crunch time? You’ll build relationships with coworkers where no one has to second-guess whether or not something will be done, or plan for contingencies, which means everyone will be more productive doing what they should be doing.
By being accountable, you build trust. By avoiding it, you break it.
It’s important to realise that accountability isn’t a one-way street. You’re responsible for adding value to your agency as much as your agency is responsible for your career development. But it starts with you. By doing the basics right, taking responsibility, and building meaningful relationships at work, you’ll be making it easier for both you and the agency to be accountable to each other.
TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) is an award-winning senior copywriter at FCB Africa with several years of experience in the advertising industry. More than a writer, he is also a reader, a thinker, and an avid liker of things; and he once walked from Joburg to Cape Town in 30 days to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for people in need. #30Days30Wheelchairs. TJ contributes the regular “Agency Life” column, in which he gives career advice for working within the advertising industry, to MarkLives.