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?


Who is Responsible?

I’ve been trying to help people be more successful for a long time. In all that time I’ve seen people fall into two major categories; those who accept responsibility for their own personal development and those who affix the responsibility for their development to someone else.

 

That someone else may be a teacher, their employer, their boss or someone close to them. The “someone else is responsible for me” group all have one thing in common. When I say all I really mean ALL, as in every single one of them. What they have in common is that they are less successful than they could be, usually much less successful.

 

Successful people accept full responsibility for their own personal development. They look for, and find, ways to improve their skills and abilities on a continual basis. 

 

They do not expect their employer to pay them for learning. They don’t expect time to be provided to them during the work day to take a class or attend a workshop. They will certainly accept those benefits if offered but they throughly understand the difference between accept and expect. 

 

Successful people are willing to invest both their own time and money to close whatever skill gaps they have identified. They realize that their development is their responsibility and no one else’s. 

 

Less successful people wait. They wait to be offered, for free, the training they need to succeed. They wait for the training to happen on company time. They maintain the attitude that if they are going to improve themselves then somebody else is going to have to take the lead in their development. 

 

Even if all those conditions are met they still don’t do as well because the motivation to succeed just isn’t there. They are improving to keep a job, not advance their own abilities. 

 

If you want to be more successful then invest in yourself. An investment in yourself is the surest investment that you can make. Invest in yourself for yourself. Invest in yourself because you’re worth it. 

 

If you believe you have what it takes to be successful and that all you need is for someone to believe in you then YOU should be that someone. Never wait, not even for a second, for someone else to take the lead in your self-improvement. 


Keep telling yourself, if it’s to be it’s up to me. Then stop talking to yourself and start doing for yourself. 

Are You All In?

There are lots of things that can slow down your progress towards success and the more of them that you accept responsibility for the better. 

 

If you’re thinking that some of those things or maybe even the majority of those things are just “bad luck” then you should know that most bad luck comes straight out of bad decisions and worse choices. 

 

Here’s the deal…until you accept complete responsibility for both your success and shortcomings YOU will be slowing down your own progress towards success. You must be all in for your best chance at success.

 

Lots of people are credited with quotes about making your own good luck by working hard. I believe that to be true. But you don’t hear too much about making your own bad luck by not working hard. You almost never hear anything about creating “bad luck” by consistently making bad choices and hair brained decisions. 

 

But that’s every bit as true as the quotes about good luck. We make our “luck” both good AND bad.

 

If success is going to be in your future then you must accept 100% responsibility for everything you say, think and do today. Everything!

 

If some of those things that you say, think and do today are holding you back then YOU must make the decision to change. No one can change you, you can only change yourself. Real change, the kind that can lead to improvement must begin with you.

 

Again I tell you that YOU must be willing to accept 100% responsibility for every decision you make and every action you take… or don’t take.

 

Blaming others for your decisions and actions prevents you from learning from them. It prevents you from growing and it lessons your chance at ultimate success.

 

Please don’t tell me, and most importantly never tell yourself, that you didn’t want to do the things you did but someone made you. No one can make you do anything that you do not want to do. Now, before you start disagreeing with that let me explain. You have almost certainly done some things you would have preferred not to do but someone or something found a way to make you decide to do it.

 

They may have threatened you, maybe they tricked you or maybe they gave you some sort of incentive but in any event, YOU choose to to it rather than the alternative that seemed even less pleasant to you. 

 

You made a choice. 

 

Most of my bad choices were not about doing bad things, they were (and are) about doing nothing. I delay, I hesitate or I downright procrastinate. Usually because it’s easier than doing what I should be doing. So I don’t do what I should, I do nothing instead. 

 

Lots and lots of people are just like me in that regard. We think we can do it later but discover again and again that later all too often becomes never. 

 

I’ve absolutely missed some opportunities in life but you know what? Those were MY choices not anyone else’s. I attribute whatever success I’ve had to the fact that I’ve never blamed someone else for the decisions and choices I’ve made. I’ve never given up the power to improve but failing to accept responsibility for my actions. 

 

Your own chances for success go way way way way up when you accept complete and total responsibility for BOTH the good and bad choices and decisions you make everyday. 


Blaming someone else for what happens to you makes someone else responsible for your success and that my friends rarely turns out well.

Are You Responsible?

I saw an advertisement for a law firm on television the other day. The ad said that if you had lost money in the stock market or other investments that you “shouldn’t blame yourself,” you should sue your investment advisor. It said “you’re not responsible.” 

That pretty much sums up where many of today’s problems come from. No one blames themselves for anything. Nothing is anyone’s fault. Responsibility, for way too many people, is a thing of the past. 

When kids mess up it’s not their fault, it is the parents. When parents mess up it’s the “systems” responsibility. When the system is screwed up it’s the politicians inability to get anything done that’s the problem. When the politicians don’t get anything done one party blames the other….and on and on it goes. 

Where there is no responsibility there is no success. Responsibility removes productivity blocking excuses. Responsibility leads to learning and the elimination of mistakes. Responsibility is a direct road to success. 

Fewer and fewer people are willing to stand up and accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong. If you’re not a fan of long lines then step right into the line of responsibility because there will be almost no one in line with you. Meanwhile the no responsibility line goes on forever these days.

Sometimes, rarely, not accepting responsibility can be a sign of humility, especially when it is responsibility for something that went right. It was interesting watching the New England Patriots celebrate their amazing comeback victory in this year’s Super Bowl. It appeared most of the team, even their biggest stars, were playing a game of “hot potato” with the credit for their success. Every player interviewed claimed someone else was more responsible for the comeback than them. 

But here’s where their true success comes from. If they had lost I’d bet you nearly every player on that team would have accepted responsibility themselves. Authentic Leaders and successful people accept more than their share of  the responsibility for a failure and giveaway virtually all the credit for any success. 

If you truly want to be a leader then admit your mistakes, accept responsibility for your actions, and never never blame someone else for something you did wrong.

Accepting responsibility for your decision making, choices, actions and their outcome indeed adds pressure to your life but that’s not a bad thing. A bit of pressure helps you excel. Accept the pressure of responsibility and the odds are you will be more successful as a result. 

 

Do You Have PRIDE?

You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” — Jim Rohn

Being prideful is not a good thing. It leads directly to boasting about accomplishments and it turns people off. Being proud of what you’ve accomplished is a very different thing.

When you have pride in your work it shows, people notice, you stand out from the crowd. You don’t have to tell anyone how successful you are, they can see it for themselves.

PRIDE leads directly to success. Here’s how I define PRIDE:

Personal – Your success is about you. If you’re blaming others for your lack of success you will find it nearly impossible to succeed. Until you fully understand that your success is completely up to you there will always be an excuse available that prevents you from reaching your full potential.

Responsibility – You’re responsible for everything you say and do. You’re also responsible for everything you don’t say and do. When you accept 100% responsibility for your life and happiness lots of things change. When you accept 100% responsibility for controlling your attitude and you decide that your attitude will remain positive then everything changes. 

In – The most successful people live in “day-tight” compartments. The don’t waste a minute worrying about yesterday and they know that if they take care of today then tomorrow will be better for it. Focus your energies on what you can control and understand that the only day you truly have any control over is the day you’re living right now.

Daily – Success comes from daily effort. The most successful people learn something new every single day. The most successful people do something every single day to get closer to one of their goals. The most successful people do something for someone else every single day. The most successful people make every single day matter. They value time as one of their greatest assets, they waste none of it.

Efforts – Success requires effort. Always! Successful people sometimes fail but they do not fail to try again. They understand that not much worth having comes easy and they are willing to work for what they want from life. Successful people do not wait for a “break,” they work to make a break for themselves. This seems like too simplistic of a statement but the fact is successful people almost always just plain outwork less successful people. They put in the effort required to succeed.

So have PRIDE and see the difference it will make for you! 

Responsible Leadership

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that leading people is a privilege that must be earned. They also understand that being a leader doesn’t, or shouldn’t, come with privileges that are not available to the people they lead.

I attended a military high school and I was quickly taught that “rank has its privileges.” As I advanced through the ranks I would occasionally take advantage of my rank by doing something that a kid with a lower rank couldn’t do. If they called me on it I’d reply in the way I had been taught: by saying, usually in a dismissive tone, “RHIP.” 

RHIP stood for Rank has it’s Privileges.

I believed that for a long time. I eventually learned how truly wrong that philosophy was, I discovered that every time I pulled that RHIP stuff I separated myself from the people I was supposed to be leading. The fact is that what rank really has is it’s responsibilities. A person with rank or as it is called in the civilian world, a person in a leadership position, has certain responsibilities to the people they lead.

Chief among those responsibilities is not separating themselves from the people they would lead. Few people in leadership positions intentionally build a wall between themselves and their people but intentional or not, many times walls do exist.

The walls are built by leaders when they apply a different set of rules to themselves than they apply to their people. As a leader the same rules must apply to everyone, including you. I know it is easy to feel that you “have earned the right” to have a little more flexibility but the truth is what you have earned the right to do is model successful behavior and habits for your people. 

Being an example of success in a daily responsibility for Authentic Servant Leaders.

Sometimes leaders provide themselves with “perks” which are not available to their people. I don’t so much have a problem with “perks” as I have with how they are “shown” to the people that don’t have access to them. The reality is that in all likelihood people in leadership positions have earned those positions by in some way outperforming the people they lead. They often worked harder and longer and they most certainly should be rewarded for it. “Perks” are a type of reward for their efforts. 

Where I personally have a problem with perks is when a person in a leadership position uses them to separate themselves from their people. They separate themselves by throwing their perks in the faces of the people who haven’t yet earned them. They brag, they show off, and in some cases they even taunt the people they rely on for their continued success. That is simply lazy and irresponsible leadership. 

If you believe that it is “lonely at the top” then you very well may have built some walls between you and your people. If you’ve hired good people then you’re missing out on a whole lot of meaningful interactions that could make your role as a leader much easier, and your organization much more successful. 

So tear down those walls. 

Here’s one idea how you might do that. Each day, every day, not when you find the time, not on “slow days,” not when you’re bored, but every single day get out of your office and conduct a brief “innerview” with at least one of your people. This isn’t an interview like you had when you hired them. This is an opportunity to get an “inner” view of them as people, as valued, informed team members. Ask them how they are doing, ask about their goals and objectives, ask how you can help them achieve their goals. Ask about how the business is doing, ask how the business is doing for them. Ask for an idea how the business could do better.

One of the biggest expenses a business can have these days is employees who are not engaged, who are giving less than a full effort. If you want engaged employees then build the kind of relationships with them that will keep them engaged.

Get to know your people, you have likely described them at least once as your organization’s greatest asset, don’t just say that, show it. Make an “innerview” a priority everyday and everyday your people will know just how important you really think they are. 

The Awesome Responsibility of Leading

Lots of people occupy leadership positions without really leading. Many people identify themselves as leaders even though they actually lead no one. 

To those people leadership is apparently just a word. 

To a truly Authentic Servant Leader however “Leadership” is much more than just a word; it is an awesome responsibility. 

Leadership, true leadership, comes with the responsibility to help your people grow and succeed. Every time you move up within an organization the weight of your responsibility increases. If you’re not prepared for that or you are unwilling to accept additional responsibility then don’t accept the move either.

It’s not unusual as you move up the ladder that your responsibility will grow faster than your authority. That’s a challenge for lesser leaders but Authentic Servant Leaders use their influence in place of authority to get things done. Authority is important if your trying to rely on compliance to motivate your people, when you have the commitment of your people influence is more than sufficient.

The responsibility of leading means making certain sacrifices. Leaders have obligations to many constituencies and that limits their freedom. It is however a limitation they freely choose in order to have an impact on the lives of those they lead. 

Here’s the thing, saying you’re a leader is easy. Leading, really leading, is anything but easy. Leading isn’t for everyone and that’s perfectly fine but if you occupy a leadership position or have the audacity to label yourself a leader then you must accept the responsibility that goes with it.

If you don’t then you’re denying your people the leadership they need and deserve.