What is accountability and why is in important in becoming a strong engineering leader?
Webster dictionary defines accountability as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.
Let’s investigate both sides of this definition:
#1 Take Responsibility on Your Engineering Projects
If you want to become a strong engineering leader, you must take responsibility in your career. What does that mean?
If you are working on a project, or a specific aspect of a project, you must own that task. You must tell your team, “I will make sure we plan and design a solid stormwater solution for this site. That is my responsibility and I will get it done.”
How do you think a statement like that will project to others? It will show them that you are confident, you are invested in the project, you are a team player, and they can count on you.
Too many engineers, put their head down and work without taking responsibility. They figure that if they don’t say anything, and don’t publicly take responsibility. Then, if they don’t deliver, there is less pressure on them and the fallout will be less.
Engineers that take responsibility in their careers, usually win, even if they don’t always achieve their goals.
This leads us to the next point…
#2 Be Accountable in Your Engineering Career
Okay so you’ve decided to step it up and take full responsibility for the tasks that you are leading.
What happens if you fail? What happens if you are short of your goal? What do you do next?
Strong engineering leaders are accountable when they fail to fulfill the tasks that they are responsible for.
Building on the example in #1 above, an engineering leader would say, “I didn’t design the best stormwater system. This is my fault and I will work to improve this design or take what I learned and perform better on the next project.”
An accountable engineering leader might also say, “I take responsibility for this project being over budget. I made some decisions in pricing out the job that were wrong and I will make better decisions next time.”
This sounds easy to do, but it is not. In fact, I see many engineering managers pointing the finger at engineering staff when their projects are over budget. Wrong move in my opinion.
As you strive to go from design engineer to engineering manager, and ultimately engineering leader, take responsibility and be accountable in your career. You as well as the engineers around you will be glad that you did.
How do you take responsibility and be accountable in your engineering career?
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success