Many people are experts at assigning blame, finger-pointing or coming up with excuses for shortcomings in their life and career. It is more comfortable and less demanding to not take responsibility.

Since it is always easy to play the victim and blame someone else or external circumstances for one’s failings, taking responsibility for yourself and your performance gives you more control which is the foundation of success in any endeavour.

I faced many obstacles to success as a rookie business owner. First, as an immigrant, there were cultural and communication barriers I had to work through. Secondly, I was fully enrolled as a full-time student in a relatively difficult computer science program with a demanding workload. Thirdly, I didn’t have any financial support to start my business. My initial business investment came from my student loan allowance, I was able to invest $1,000 of it into my new business.

Conscientiousness is the quality of being responsible, careful, diligent and taking responsibility for your actions and performance.

All of these obstacles could have been valid excuses to give up or to justify poor performance, but I instead decided to take the initiative on things that I had control over and accept the things that were out of my control.

One of the things in my control was my work ethic and I happily took advantage of it. For example, considering I didn’t have enough cash on hand early on in the business, I had to do most of my initial marketing the old fashion way.

To get my first customer, I went door-knocking in my neighbourhood for 3 nights every week. This was done in the extremely cold Canadian winter, sometimes as cold as -40 degrees celsius! I kept going even though my sales pitch was rejected many times. I could control how many doors I knocked on and how many people I spoke to.

Eventually, the customers I found through this door-knocking exercise kickstarted my business. The cash flow generated from these initial customers helped me to grow the business into an enterprise that grossed over half a million in revenue. Conscientiousness was the building block of my success.

Conscientiousness is the quality of being responsible, careful, diligent and taking responsibility for your actions and performance. To be conscientious you have to take initiative, meet commitments, keep your promises and exhibit industriousness and reliability. You have to be organized and willing to hold yourself accountable.

In today’s increasingly turbulent job market, conscientiousness offers protection against the threat of job loss.

In studies of job performance, outstanding effectiveness for virtually all jobs, from semi-skilled labour to sales and management depended on conscientiousness. This quality is important for outstanding performance in any role regardless of level or rank.

An example of conscientiousness in action is a clerk who never misplaces a package, a secretary who always takes accurate messages, a delivery driver who is never late, a sales manager who takes an active interest in his team members and a CEO who leads by example.

Individuals who exhibit this skill are punctual, careful in their work, self-disciplined and meticulous in attending to their responsibilities. They follow the rules, help out and are concerned about the people they work with.

Furthermore, a conscientious professional for example is a person who helps orient newcomers or updates people who return after sick leave. It could be someone who always arrives at work on time, never abuses their sick leave and who always gets things done on time.

Focus on taking responsibility for what you can control.

In today’s increasingly turbulent job market, conscientiousness offers protection against the threat of job loss because individuals with this trait are among the most valued. There is usually an aura of sorts around people with this skill that makes them seem even better than they are. Their reputation for reliability biases their supervisor’s rating of their work which gives them higher evaluations than objective measures of their performance would predict.

This skill must however be practiced with empathy and social skills. Being conscientious generally means that you have a higher standard for yourself, holding others to this same standard can be a source of conflict and can be perceived as judgmental.

Also, conscientiousness has to be practiced with balance especially when it takes the form of dogged conformity to expectations that can put a damper on creativity. Sometimes openness to wild ideas and out of the box thinking is what gets the job done.

How can you begin?

  1. Add value: Your worth and reputation are determined by how much more you give in value than what you take in payment. Putting other people’s interests first and continually adding value to others ultimately leads to unexpected results. Having this approach in life and at work forces you to take the initiative and be proactive. Always ask yourself in every conversation or interaction, how can I add value?
  2. Focus on what is in your control: You will be much more effective when you put your time and energy into the things that you can control. You can always control your attitude, what you do with your time, what you say to people, how much effort you put in and how open you stay to feedback. You can’t control the weather or how someone reacts to what you say, focusing on things that are out of your control will create a lot of unnecessary suffering for yourself and waste of energy. Focus on taking responsibility for what you can control.
  3. Set and maintain your standard of performance: Success is directly related to your productivity, commitment and performance. Hence, setting performance standards for yourself will help you to take intentional responsibility for your success. Make a list of the standard of performance you expect for yourself and do not settle for mediocrity. The enemy of great is good, never give in to a “good enough” mindset. For example, in sales, you could set a standard of connecting with 20 new prospects every week. Following through on your standard is equally important, be your own toughest critic.
  4. Hold yourself accountable: Being accountable is more than just being responsible for something. It is ultimately being answerable for your actions and the quality of your work. Accountability implies a sense of ownership for both positive and negative outcomes, it also implies doing something about your failures and obstacles. This could translate into asking for help from a colleague, putting in more effort, or doing your homework to understand what you are missing and making clear changes to improve your performance.

Hi, I’m David and I coach professionals to upgrade their resume, improve their emotional intelligence and earn more money. I am a professional recruiter and work as a consultant for a world-class recruiting firm. You can learn more about me at Also, feel free to check out my Ultimate Career Guide Course on Udemy.