The Challenge of Low Accountability

I don’t like to place blame. I’m not a big fan of finding fault. I am however a huge fan of assigning responsibility and holding people accountable for their actions and decisions.

 

For those of you who believe there is no difference between placing blame and assigning responsibility let me share with you what the difference actually is. 

 

Assigning responsibility and accountability has to do with being answerable. It means your actions and their results will be measured objectively. Most people are willing to accept responsibility when they realize it comes with the opportunity to improve.  

 

To place blame is not only to be held responsible but to find fault. Blame assumes there will be a penalty, whether implicit or tacit. When someone in a leadership role assigns blame their actions usually stop there. The “blamed” individual awaits the punishment they are certain is coming their way. 

 

Authentic Leaders will hold their people accountable for outcomes without automatically placing blame. Accountability helps people grow. Whether they like it or not accountability motivates people to improve. Accountability actually leads to empowerment. Once an Authentic Leader holds someone accountable they follow up with coaching and offers of help. I can think of no downside to accountability. 

 

Placing blame on the other hand is one of the most demotivating actions a leader can take. Blame leads to disempowerment. It causes shame and a feeling of defeat. It is demoralizing. Blaming someone slows their development. There is no upside to blaming someone.

 

When something goes wrong in your organization do you think of terms of holding people accountable or do you look for someone to blame? It’s an important question because accountability will help your people grow while blame will stymie their development. 

 

This is somewhat a generalization but when the level of blame within an organization is high the level of accountability is usually low. 

 

Low accountability in an organization leads to a high level of chaos. Low accountability leads to low profitability and higher turnover. Low accountability leads to disengaged employees uninterested in improvement. Low accountability eventually leads to no need for accountability because there is nothing left to be accountable for. There is not an organization in existence today that can afford low accountability.


If you’re dealing with the same problems and mistakes again and again maybe the blame isn’t with your people. Maybe it’s with how you’re leading them…or not leading them. Is it time to hold yourself accountable?


5 thoughts on “The Challenge of Low Accountability

  1. What if there’s 1 colleague, self employed who is particularly difficult to discipline?
    Perhaps trying different approaches, with regards to attendance and punctuality
    A different voice etc etc
    Still making the same mistakes
    An enigma?
    Bringing good value when in and focused
    Brought in basic standards
    Cut down his hours, mutually agreed
    Seems lost in himself
    Tried goal setting
    What is his why?
    Frustrating as feel I’ve tried everything

    Any suggestions gratefully received

    Great article by the way

    1. Thanks Matthew, first off no one makes the same mistakes again and again. After the second or third time it’s not a mistake it’s a choice. My biggest concern would be your comment “ lost in himself.” This sounds like a person without a vision for their life. I’d have a long conversation, perhaps several, about how you could help them find their passion. They may not have a lot of answers for you at first. But keep at it, their lack of focus on their future is leading to poor decisions that look like mistakes to you.

  2. Mr. Keating-
    My name is John Ekstrom and I am a golf course superintendent from Joliet, IL who sits on the board of directors of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents. We were hoping to contact you regarding speaking engagements and if you would be willing. Thank you so much!

    John Ekstrom

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