I often get asked about the secret of a successful career in marketing. In my experience, having worked with plenty of up-and-coming young marketers in different countries, there is no secret; more of an insight that initially appears quite obvious and even somewhat glib when you say it. The key ingredient of a successful career is accountability.
We have all encountered situations in our marketing world where the outcome, the situation or the experience could have been much better, but no one wanted to be accountable for creating it. In many cases, what is required to transform these situations is a change of attitude. I always say to the young marketer, in these circumstances you should be the one to take the initiative.
Accountability is being willing both to test yourself and apply objective measurement to your performance in order to improve. It is a willingness to stand up and be counted when others refuse.
By taking the initiative, and demonstrating this kind of leadership, there is also a by-product that is even more valuable than the act itself: being willing to be held accountable is a sure way to increase a young marketer’s confidence. In fact, you could say that accountability is the gateway to confidence.
I appreciate that accountability is a scarce commodity. Standing up and being counted – particularly among our politicians or other senior leaders – is a rare and valuable thing. And, of course, some prefer not to put up their hand for fear of being perceived as the team brown-noser or appearing overeager; or worse, they complain, defer or duck.
I have been in too many team meetings where a new initiative or a fresh concept comes up and the following few minutes are reminiscent of the economics teacher in the classic 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off asking plaintively after each question: “Anyone? Anyone?”
Once you wrap your head around the idea that accountability means you are willing to have measurements and external standards applied to your actions, you see how this changes your motivation and improves results.
Being accountable enables you to perform on a more consistent basis, which will improve your confidence. Since confidence is one of the abilities that underpins all good careers, not just a good marketing career, focusing on accountability will build a virtuous circle that will work in any role or circumstance. Wanting to be accountable is a lot thinner on the ground than we all would like, but choosing to be held to account will give marketers the belief that we can improve and grow in any area of our lives. Not a bad result from just deciding to put your hand up.