Leadership: Breed Accountability NOT Blame

One of the questions leaders often ask me is, “How do we increase employee accountability?”

The short answer is — by not blaming anyone. Accountability is the profitable practice of initiative, ownership, and follow-through. It is not blame.

A culture of blame …

  • Kills all hope of initiative.
  • Teaches people to avoid.
  • Turns high function into dysfunction.
  • Elevates politics while deflating spirit.
  • Disengages for the purpose of self-preservation.
  • Wastes time that could be spent on outstanding results.

While we engage in blame, our competition is:

  • Learning, repairing, rebuilding, and solving
  • Innovating over new challenges
  • Valuing and tapping the talent it hired
  • Expanding insights and knowledge
  • Collaborating for success
  • Growing the business and developing the talent
  • Farming new business territory
  • Wowing each customer
  • Producing profits

Why fall into the trap of the blame game? Blame drains the success out of every organization.

    It reveals a broken leadership culture that has spiraled down into self-preservation instead of ascending to inspiration and productivity.

    It wastes opportunities for employee engagement and accountability as everyone stays trapped in a constant sense of vague fear.

We can achieve greatness, productivity, and profit when we lead with a culture of learning, initiative, engagement, and accountability.

    Celebrate and develop accountability as the honorable practice of ownership that breeds results.

    Change the conversation from fault and fear to learning and accountability. Success is constantly within reach.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

The flash image used at the top is licensed via Istock.

Related Post: Pain Free Journey to Engage Employee Accountability

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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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15 Responses to “Leadership: Breed Accountability NOT Blame”

  1. Khalid says:

    This is exactly what happened to my brother at work. He is a network admin and he was supposed to carry out an upgrade on network but there was a legacy application that somehow depends on that old network configuration. That legacy application is running unfortunately without support and no one dares to touch it. So he step out of his comfort zone and read the application manual and manage to do the upgrade flawlessly on an isolated test environment and it was working. Unfortunately when he applied this on production the whole network went down and he was the one to blame.

    Since then he never touches the production and he lost confident in managing his work (he was relying on external contractors). I told him that this is part or his learning experience and he shouldn’t let this stops him from taking responsibility of his job again.

    I clearly see how bad it is to live in a culture of blame.

    Thanks Kate for the great advice 🙂
    I’ll pass this post to my brother to read 🙂


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Khalid,
      Quintessential example and so pleased you shared it here. Everyone who reads this post will nod their head and understand exactly what your brother is feeling.

      In my next post on accountability vs. blame (Part II), I will offer specific ways to keep your initiative high while lowering the risk of blame.

      Thanks as always Khalid for your tremendous contribution of practical examples.

      Best regards,

  2. Blame is the easy way out. It’s a short-circuit avoidance system that prevents real understanding of the issues. Ever notice when something goes right everyone is jumping on board to claim a piece of the accomplishment, but when it goes wrong, everyone points fingers? When someone stands up and says, “yes, I did this and I’m going to take responsibility for it and fix it” we all cheer. I think even blame can be overcome, but if mixed with a culture of fear, it can be deadly to the organization.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Interesting analogy Skip — short circuit to true understanding. I agree. It takes a sound culture of confidence, commitment, and teamwork to travel the longer path to realization and success.

      Many thanks for your contribution to this discussion.

  3. Melissa Kovacevic says:

    So true! Accountability is definitely key as you say, Kate. So many waste hours pointing fingers and blaming everyone who touches the project or process. One thing I would add is that “rewarding” the taking of responsibility and accountability, not just in terms of dollars but Leadership recognizing that someone front line has done it. One example is when a Supervisor coaching is working side by side with agents to help develop skills instead of just “telling” and then blaming agent for lack of progress.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Excellent addition Melissa. Rewarding accountability builds the culture, develops the behaviors, and ensures success. When it also maps into coaching and growth — it’s a winner to be sure.

      Many thanks,

  4. Susan Mazza says:

    Well said Kate! Gustav Mahler defined Personal Responsibility as “Retaining the ability to respond”. Assigning blame robs people of the ability to respond effectively which runs counter to the point of accountability to begin with!

  5. Great stuff Kate. I also tend to believe that one breeds accountability by making sure everyone knows as much as possible about whatever it is they do, then allowing them to make decisions on their own, having them explain those decisions when necessary. When people see you don’t judge them badly, even when they didn’t do things properly, and educate them even more, they’ll take ownership and make the job of the leader so much easier.

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