Volume 89, August 2008: Accountability

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2008 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” — Stephen Covey

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” — George Bernard Shaw

“If you don’t accept responsibility for your actions, then you are forever chained to a position of defense.” — Holly Lisle, Fire in the Mist (1992)

“You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.” — Stephen W. Comiskey


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Cultivating personal responsibility and accountability.
  • Seeing your role in creating irresponsibility.
  • Encouraging others to bring forth solutions, not just problems.
  • Discouraging victim thinking, blaming, and finger-pointing.
  • Expecting accountability as a condition of corporate citizenship.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Have you noticed that people are prone to bring you problems, without any sense of personal responsibility? Often it has to do with something someone else has done to them. It often begins with “they.”

“When are they going to fix this problem?”

“When are they going to provide me with _____?”

“Why do we have to change?”

“Who made the mistake?”

According to Miller (2004) and Oakley & Krug (1994), these are ineffective questions. They displace the responsibility (for the customer) and the accountability (to the organization) away from the problem-owner. The challenge for leaders is to give the problem back to its rightful owner, to enable people to tackle and design solutions for themselves.

Instead of finger-pointing, procrastinating, and “we-they”ing at work, all of us need to concentrate on bringing out the best in ourselves and one an other. We are all on the same team, and everyone’s success is mutual.

Frequently Asked Questions

“When I ask for help, I am frequently put off by the comment, ‘I’m too busy.’ How can I let this go?”
“Busyness” has been raised to a sacrament. If a leader asks someone to do something in the interests of the organization, it is not an invitation, it is an expectation (Tim Porter O'Grady, 2007). “I’m too busy” is not an acceptable answer. Membership in a community comes with demonstration of contribution. Productivity and priorities come with the privilege of belonging. Everyone is obligated to add value and make minutes count.
Be very clear about expectations. Don’t let it go.
“How do I deal with ‘they-ism’ in our organization?”
Who are “they” anyway? “They did it to me.” “How could they?” “It’s not my fault.” This is victim thinking – a powerless position.
Instead, the accountable person focuses on solutions – what I can do – versus blame and how to change others. You cannot change others – only yourself. The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your arm.
“Is there a way to talk accountability, so that people can understand it?”
John Miller (2004) created a formula of personal accountability, with a tool called the Question Behind the Question (QBQ). It is intended to help individuals practice personal accountability, instead of blaming, complaining and spending energy trying to deflect additional work. It occurs by asking the right questions:
  1. Begin questions with “What” or “How;”
  2. Use “I,” (not they, them, we, or you); and
  3. Focus on Action. “How can I move this forward?” “What can I do?”

“Choosing to,” instead of “having to,” is very empowering and builds on personal accountability.

“How do I better understand the way I contribute to problems?”
  • What is my role in this situation?
  • What are my beliefs about the matter and what am I telling myself?
  • What am I doing (or not doing) to promote the situation as it exists?
  • What is under my control?
  • What can I do to have an impact?
  • How can I do things differently? (and then conduct an experiment)

Exercises and Action Items

  • Check the language of your questions. How often do you say “What” and “How,” rather than “Why,” “When,” and “Who?”
  • Hold a Whine and Cheese party. Listen to gripes for a set amount of time, then banish them forever.


Make personal accountability part of your culture: Discover the Power of Personal Accountability With a QBQ! Training Session.

Another e-zine addressing personal accountability: The Power of Personal Accountability.

E-book, including performance agreements: Performance Agreements.

Key Associates offers Leadership training, including Professionalism. Contact us for more information.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

How self-responsible are you? Take a quiz: How Self Responsible Are You?.

Accountability from others within your organization starts with being accountable to yourself: Personal Accountability.

What do Apple, Inc., Nordstrom and Whole Foods all have in common? Personal Accountability and Corporate Accountability Create Business Success .

Keyzines on related topics: Pride in Work, Cynicism, Giving Direction, Time Management, On Delegation, Constructive Confrontation, Toxic People, and Civility.



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