Category Archives: professional development

Quit the Blame Game: Tag You Are It!

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

Excerpt from Invictus -William Ernest Henley
Hello, I Am Accountable-Name Tag-Image
Hello, I Am Accountable-Name Tag

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about accountability, specifically personal accountability, and the implications for when and where it does or does not exist. When people hold themselves accountable, it shows up as taking ownership of their jobs, acknowledging responsibility for when things go wrong, choosing to learn from failures and improve and simply saying I am sorry. On the other hand, when people fail to hold themselves accountable for their actions, behaviors, and choices, you end up getting excuses, procrastination, blaming, victim thinking, and the list goes on. Regardless of where you fall on the scale of personal accountability, the level of success you achieve, your sense of fulfillment and the overall quality of your life and relationships might very well depend on it.

What is Personal Accountability?

According to MindTools, management consultant Todd Herman defined personal accountability as  ‘ being willing to answer for the outcomes resulting from your choices, behaviors and actions.” Therefore, personal accountability starts with each of us and places us squarely in the driver’s seat of the vehicle we call life. Yet, for some people, the word accountability is a bad word, and the idea of it (in whatever shape or form) produces anxiety and discomfort. For those people, being held accountable raises thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, fear, failure, or the perception of accountability as a form of corrective action. For others like myself, being held personally accountable is empowering and liberating, as it gives me a sense of direction and control over my life, my choices, and the inevitable results.

For this purposes of this post, I wanted to explore personal accountability and the ultimate responsibility we all have for our lives. Now, I have never fond of excuses. Growing up without both of my parents, I learned very early and quickly that a lot of things were going to be up to me. I remember making decisions about which high schools I wanted to attend, which extra-curricular activities I would participate in, organizing to attend field trips and making decisions on who would pick up my report card because my guardian could not.

This mindset of individual accountability travelled with me throughout my childhood to adulthood and even to my current roles as a single parent and working professional.  So, it is safe to say that, I have had lots of practice and taking personal accountability is not hard for me. However, this is not the case for everyone. We all come from different backgrounds with varied experiences that have shaped and influenced how we show up in our personal and professional lives.

Two Persons Pointing Fingers-Image
Two Persons Pointing Fingers

When Personal Accountability is Lacking

Earlier this year, I was talking to a friend about some challenges that he was experiencing. Turned out that his 2021 had started with a bang. He shared how everything was happening to him at the same time as he was experiencing serious difficulties in both his personal and professional life. The challenges had impacted his health and well-being, his job, and his personal relationships. I listened to him share and empathized with his situation out of the deep regard I have for him and our friendship. After the call, I could not shake the deep feeling of worry and frustration I felt for him.

Some of the challenges he described were not new and the writing had been on the wall. So, I sent him a text expressing my renewed concerns and reminded him that things were not just happening to him but that he had played a role in them. I asked him to reflect on how his actions had contributed to his current situation and encouraged him to take accountability. I hoped it would lead to change.  Recently, I checked on him to see how things were going. I was hoping for progress but from what I heard, not much had changed. He seemed to have a problem for every solution I tried to help him with and could hardly commit to taking much needed action to help himself. The conversation left me tired and frustrated.

Coming to terms with the consequences of our individual actions, decisions and choices is never easy but we are sometimes forced to. And when many of are faced with challenging or difficult situations, our first thoughts are usually defensive or negative (See previous post on Automatic Negative Thoughts). From the example of my friend, when we fail to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and circumstances, our responses can range from thoughts of blaming, victim thinking, and procrastination as described below.

Blaming: What do you do when something goes wrong in your relationships, finances, health or on the job? Do you acknowledge your role or responsibility or are you quick to point a finger to someone else or something else that went wrong? Finger pointing or blaming shifts the responsibility from you to others. Over time, this blame shifting catches up with you and will break trust and damage your relationships.

Victim Thinking/Mentality: This is the tendency for some people to see themselves as victims of other people actions or as ‘stuck’ in difficult situations.  People who take on this mindset are usually unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives and feel a sense of powerlessness to do anything to change it.  People who see themselves as victims take on sense of helplessness which limits their ability to hold themselves accountable for anything.

Procrastination:  Statements likewhen this happens, I’ll do that” … or “one of these days, I am going to start …” are good examples of procrastination. I have watched people wait and hope for the “right time” and delay taking required action by finding a problem for every possible solution. Every time, we choose to delay or postpone a decision that can help to advance our goals and dreams, we undermine our growth and set ourselves back.

Play Your Part-Jigsaw Puzzle-Image
Play your Part-Jigsaw Puzzle

How to Improve Personal Accountability?

If you want to quit the blame game and practice greater accountability, here are five things you can do right now:

  1. Say sorry: We all make mistakes and from time to time will hurt and offend others. When you make a mistake, take responsibility, and show ownership. If your actions or words hurt or offend someone, apologize, and make amends. Listen and learn from all conflicts or disagreements.  
  1. Acknowledge your roles and responsibilities:  Start by reflecting on your different roles, what you responsible for, who are you accountable to and what is in your scope of control. While you cannot control all the things that happen to you, understanding and owing your responsibilities will help you to accept accountability and take required actions where necessary. Do not sit back and wait for your supervisor, friend, or family member to fix your situations. Personal accountability starts and stops with you.
  1. Be honest with yourself: Sometimes the most powerful conversations we could have are the ones we have with ourselves. At some point or another, we must assess our lives and ask ourselves tough questions such as- am I changing for better or worse? am I failing or making progress? what do I need to do differently? Also ask yourself, who are you blaming for the situations that are currently happening in your life? Sit with the discomfort of your answers and then decide to take action to change. Do not normalize your dysfunction, instead call yourself out and to thine own self- be true.
  1. Manage your time and your talents:  It is easy to look at others pursing their goals and to compare yourself to them. Avoid the comparison trap for there is always going to be someone with five talents to your one. You are not expected to be them. You are only required to use your one talent to become that  best version of you. So do not flirt with failure but making excuses about why or what you cannot do. Use your time wisely, set SMART goals and find an accountability partner who will support you as you work towards them day by day.
  1. Change your questions. Asking questions is one of the main ways that we make sense of our lives and the world around us. So, what does your questions sound like? Are they solutions based or are they more likely to cause negative thoughts and feelings? As the saying goes, if you want better answers, ask better questions. To practice greater accountability, John G. Miller suggest that we ask the Question Behind Questions (QBQs). QBQs always starts with a how or what (the objective), includes I (you can only change yourself) and an action (for the way forward).Take a look at the examples below: 

Question 1: Why is all this happening to me?

 QBQ 1: What can I do to change my situation?

 Question 2: Why do I have to do everything?

 QBQ 2: How can I proactively ask my family or coworker for help?

QBQs can help you to engage in thoughts that will drive your towards accountability and positive change rather than getting stuck in negative thoughts that can leave you feeling discouraged. So, as you reflect your own personal accountability and how you show up, try practicing one of the tips and let me know if it works for you. You are responsible for creating the life you hope to have. Practice personal accountability for your actions and choices

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!

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Blind Spots: Danger -Watch Yourself !!

Blind Spot in Rearview Mirror-Image
Blind Spot in Rearview Mirror

Think about the first time you got behind the steering wheel to drive a car. You performed all the basic safety procedures to operate the vehicle safely and to keep you and other drivers safe on the road. As you drove off the vehicle, your instructor probably warned or reminded you to be careful and to check your blind spot. In driving, a blind spot is that the area around the vehicle that the driver cannot see from the driver’s seat. Every driver knows that, attempting to merge or change lanes without checking your blind spot is dangerous and can possibly lead to collision or a serious accident with another vehicle on the road.  

The problem with blind spots

Just as with cars, all of us have blind spots. Blind spots refer to unrecognized areas of weaknesses that we all have, that can potentially harm our relationships, overall effectiveness, and chances for personal and professional success. The real issue with blind spots is that – most of us are walking around and interacting every day without any awareness and knowledge of what our blind spots are. And while some of us might be unaware of our blind spots, or may not even want to admit them, these behaviors are usually very obvious to the people around us- our friends, coworkers and family who observe and experience daily. So just as in driving, where we need to frequently check our mirrors for your blind spot, we need other people to “hold up the mirror for us.”

Another problem with blind spots that makes them hard to recognize is that- a blind spot could easily be related to a personality characteristic that we consider to be a strength. For example, people like me who describe themselves as assertive, confident and outgoing, can be easily be perceived by others as arrogant and ‘pushy’. A child that loves to organize and suggest the games she plays with her friends, can be viewed as “bossy.” A person who is reserved and cautious about risk might be seen as inflexible and not open to new ideas.  This is because any strength that is overused or misused, can become a weakness. When we overuse a strength, what matters most is not what we intended, but the effects that our words or actions had on others. Perception then becomes the reality and can lead to situations where we are misunderstood, or we misunderstand others.

Cat Staring at Lion Reflection in the Mirror-Image
Cat Staring at Lion Reflection in the Mirror

The importance of self-awareness

How well do you know yourself? According to Harvard Business Review, most people believe that they are self-aware, yet only  15-20% of people are. At its simplest, self-awareness is understanding and knowing one’s own feelings, personality, behaviors, and patterns. It is also a crucial aspect of developing our emotional intelligence. When we lack self-awareness, it can work against us and lead to people to make judgements about us, that are different from how we see ourselves. This disconnect can make it incredibly frustrating and difficult for us to build and maintain positive interpersonal relationships in both our personal and professional lives.

In the early days of my own career journey, self-awareness was perhaps my biggest pain point and blind spot. For me, the issue was not that I did not know my strengths and weaknesses. If you had asked me about those, I would have been able to quickly and frankly describe the things I did well and did not. Still, I was experiencing some interpersonal problems with a few of my coworkers that prevented us from getting along well. I had concluded that they did not like me and one day vented my frustrations to a friend, who was also a colleague. She patiently listened to my concerns. After I had finished, she explained to me that- as my friend she knew and understood me and my personality. Because of that, when I behaved in a particular way, she was never offended because she understood me and what my motives were.

However, she went on to share that whenever I was knowledgeable and passionate about something, I was very direct and assertive in communicating my opinions and ideas. She further explained that- this could be interpreted by others as intimidating, arrogant and that sometimes, I did come across “a bit too strongly.” I was surprised and shocked by her feedback and had a hard time accepting it. But deep down, I also trusted her and knew it was true. Her feedback certainly explained why- despite my best efforts I was not having the impact I wanted and was not working effectively with those members of the team. The feedback left me feeling confused and frustrated. How could my strengths- self-confidence, outgoing personality and assertiveness show up as a weakness? Her feedback had revealed a blind spot and I knew then that I would need to do some things differently.

The Johari Window

So how do you improve your self-awareness? In my previous post about feedback, I wrote about how many of us struggle to accept any information we believe to be negative or critical. The less open we are to receiving feedback, the more likely it is that we will lack self-awareness and be blindsided by our blind spots. One technique that could help us develop our self-awareness and minizine our blind spots is the Johari Window. The Johari Window (diagram below) breaks down self-awareness into two categories (Things known and unknown about you to other people and things known and unknown about you to yourself) and four areas: open, blind, hidden, and unknown.

The Johari Window ModeL
The Johari Window Model

The goal of the Johari Window is for us to improve our self-awareness by increasing the open area of our window by shrinking our blind, hidden, and unknown areas.

  • Open Area: In this area, you will find the information you know about yourself and others do. This is information that we voluntarily disclose and is usually public knowledge.
  • Blind Area:  Here you will find information that you do not know about yourself, but others do. This is also the area where our blind spots live, and we rely on others to share this information with us.
  • Hidden Area: This area has information that you know about yourself and others do not. This include the things that you consider to be private or anything you believe will make you vulnerable to others.
  • Unknown Area: This area represents the things that are unknown to you and others. This is an area that is good for self-discovery and provide you with opportunities to learn a new skill or develop a new interest or hobby outside of our comfort zone.

Final Thoughts

While we get to decide how big or small the areas in our window are, the more we increase our open area, the more effective we become in our relationships at work at home.  I know you might be thinking that you do not want people to know everything about you. Afterall, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable to others can be hard and risky. But, when we open ourselves to others and share our values, goals, and experiences, we build trust, forge stronger connections, and learn more about our own feeling and emotions. So as a next step, try the following tips to help you to continue to improve your self-awareness and minimize your blind spots

  1. Start paying attention to yourself and notice your thinking, feelings, patterns and behaviors.
  2.  Build connections and relationships with people to help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Ask for feedback and be ready and willing to receive it and make the change(s) where necessary.
  4. Be patient and compassionate with others even when their behaviors frustrate you. You might be looking at their blind spots, but yours are just as visible to others too. So, do not forget to check you blind spots.

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!

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How- to- STAR- Your- Job -Interview-Video

Level UP!!

Balloons Up In the Sky-Photo
Balloons up in the Sky-Photo by Padli Pradana on

Catchy phrases and  cool slangs have always been attractive to people trying to ensure that they are “in the know” and/or keeping up the times. And so, in professional circles you might have heard your colleagues drop phrases such as “Lean In” (made popular by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook titled book), “circle back”, “weigh in” and/or refer to “serial tasking” (Instead of multitasking) and so on and so forth.

“Level Up” or “levelling up” is the one of the newest and trendy phrases now being used in various circles across the globe to describe an attitude or mindset towards upgrading oneself or performance and/or the desire to go to another level in one’s personal or professional development or career journey. The Urban Dictionary describes level up as “To make a move in your life or career for the better”. Based on that definition,  who among us could not think of an area(s) in our lives that we want or need to level up or improve ?

Why Level Up?

According to Business Wire, there is a  $9.9 billion market for motivational self-improvement programs and products that seek to improve us physically, mentally, financially or spiritually. A quick at YouTube quick look at Amazon’s platform or YouTube respectively,  will reveal a  plethora of self-improvement books, podcasts on everything from how to improve finances, learn a new skill, motivational content on personal development and how to videos geared at people who want to try something new. So, regardless  of where you fall on Maslow’s  Hierachy of Needs , the concept of “levelling up” appeals to individuals who are  looking to  their improve skills or performance, advance in their career  or  wanting to step outside of  their comfort zone. It also provides motivation for those of us seeking to pursue bold new goals whether its buying a new home, starting that degree, taking a relationship to the next level or taking steps to improve nutrition and fitness for improved health and well-being. Additionally, the organizational environments in which we operate and the tools and technologies we use are always changing. Failure to adapt and our agility in responding to such change can affect our success and progress in the varied roles we perform.

What Does Levelling Up Look Like?

This truly will depend on your end game and what you are trying to achieve at this stage of your personal life or career. One of the things  that I learned very early in my leader development is that, development is dynamic. Our strengths can become weaknesses and gaps in skills that we have (that were not critical at one time) can suddenly become urgent. Simply put, the skills and talents that got us to one level, may not take you to your next or ‘What Got You Here Won’t Take You There’ . Plus, we all have blind spots, those things that people know about us that we don’t know about ourselves.  For example, the way we  make decisions, how we ‘show up” when working with others or perform everyday tasks,  that can potentially undermine or derail our very best efforts.

For me, I have identified a couple areas in my interpersonal and technical skills where I am seeking to grow and level up. For you, the area(s) for improvement will be different. What matters most is that you take the time to process feedback you might have received, and or spend some time reflecting on where you are vs. what you want to achieve. Once you’ve  identified  your  opportunities to growth, challenge yourself not to focus  on the barriers but instead, commit to  taking little steps as you work towards change.

So, ask yourself- what is one area (s) in my personal /professional life that I would like to or need to grow/improve? Whatever you answer might be- that is the place to start becoming the person you truly want to be.

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!  

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Coming to America..4 Years Later

animal-1524168_1920 Four years ago (Today), I migrated to the USA to embark on a brand new chapter of my life. Excited about my visions of success, the lure of new opportunities and the well wishes of friends and family, I flew out bravely. But, like any big life event or major change, the journey has been filled with challenges and opportunities that I had to navigate to transition successfully. I quickly learnt that, even the best laid plans go awry and that research never fully prepares you for what is to come. Now, three jobs later, after many second interviews, even more informational interviews, some serious networking efforts, CPLP certification, volunteering, starting a Blog, the ground has finally settled under me and I am moving forward steadily. So, as I reflect on my own experience and progress to date, here a few insights that might help you.

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan:  If you fail to plan, prepare to fail.  Having a clear vision or set goals about what you want to and achieve will help to you stay focused regardless of what is happening around you. Share your goals often and openly, as this will help the people you meet figure out how they might best help you.
  2. Accept that setbacks and detours are normal: If you are super lucky, you might land a job in your field of choice before you even make the move.  If you didn’t, your job hunt will likely start shortly thereafter and your first job might not be what you envisioned. It might be a job that gets you employed and earning, but, it may not be a good fit for your skills and background. That just means you have to keep looking
  3. Be positive and persistent: Chances are, you are going to have some disappointments particularly with the job search process. Acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them. Your failure to get that job you wanted is not necessarily an indictment on your own value, skills and experiences. Instead, treat every interview as a learning experience, assess your performance after and use it to prepare for your next opportunity.
  4. Ask for and find help: Your success is really up to you. Start by identifying the organizations you would like to work with and try to make connections with people who are doing the kinds of work that you would like to do. Professional networks such as Linked In and/or your local professional organizations are great for establishing new relationships.
  5.  Practice a growth mindset:  Your ability and willingness to quickly learn, unlearn and relearn and will be important as you acquire the new skills required to be successful and adapt to the new culture or your environment. Be open to feedback and trying new ways of doing things.
  6. Believe in yourself and value your experiences: Though you might be in a new setting, all your experiences are valid. Your challenge is to find new ways of thinking about your skills and prior experiences and how to leverage them. Being able to determine your transferable skills, articulate and demonstrate them, will help you to reinvent yourself and position you for success.
  7. Surround yourself with good people: Like any good fighter knows, the roar of the crowd might be nice to hear but it doesn’t win the fight. When life knocks you down, all you really need are a few good supporters in your corner helping you get up to resume the fight and cheering you on.

Until next time, Remember, It’s a Learning Life!

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