Stop The Blame Game: It’s Time to Become Accountable


SOME favorite expressions of small children: “It’s not my fault. . . They made me do it. . . I forgot.” Some favorite expressions of adults: “It’s not my job. . . No one told me. . . they did it, not me.”

In these instances, whether a child or an adult, no one is taking responsibility; rather they are pointing figures at others.

What do you see in your organization – people taking responsibility or pointing fingers at others? If it’s the latter, how do you stop the blame game and how do you start getting accountability?

The word ‘accountability’ seems to stir up frustrations for many managers. I have seen how it’s been used by some to assign fault and mete out punishment. But I have also seen how it’s been used to propel individuals and teams to great success.

What is Accountability?

A simple definition of accountability is a personal sense of responsibility for the outcome(s) of what they do. People look beyond their narrow job description and focus on results their work is contributing to. When people adopt a sense of accountability, they recognize that their participation can and will make a difference. They go the extra mile because they know what to do; why they need to do it; and why it’s important.

How Do You Create It?

As a manager, how do you lead so that personal accountability is accepted and embraced? Here are three steps to stop the blame game and start getting accountability.

• People Have to See It

Because reality frequently changes – what worked yesterday may not work today- A leader needs to stay alert and be flexible. This means obtaining others’ perspectives ideas and feedback. A leader must not only acknowledge but, most importantly, help others understand the what -the who – the why of what’s being asked of them.

• People Have to Own It

A leader also helps others to be personally invested in desired outcomes. It’s done by linking their specific tasks and responsibilities with key priorities first of the team, then the department or the business unit and finally up the line to the company. You need to demonstrate the value and importance of what they do.

• People Have to Solve It

Obstacles can always get in the way of achieving results. Yes as a leader, the “buck stops with you”. However, you don’t always need to be the one to find the solution. Ask them “What else can we do so this gets resolved?” Tapping into their wisdom and participation creates personal responsibility for the implementation of the solution.

Smart Moves Tip:

The payoffs for positive accountability are better performance metrics, but perhaps more significant is the impact on your people. When people participate more fully in their jobs, they create meaning and fulfillment. Work becomes more pleasurable. That’s a crucial step toward high employee engagement and commitment.


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. I’m trying to recall how many times people were accountable for things but didn’t have the authority to be accountable. It was a heck of a lot. And of course, when things fail, they’re thrown under the bus.

    Accountability is really a culture thing. You can’t really mandate it. And you can’t really convince people to own it. There was one time where our client was really growing and had to do several overhauls on operations and the processes that supported it. I fought tooth and nail against that culture — and the best I could hammer down a single accountability with a small team of people; usually five in size. That really bugged me because the best policy is to have one person accountable and the rest responsible. So I had to play some hardball and go through everyone’s objectives with a fine tooth comb so each individual had to be accountable or else they wouldn’t get their full bonus. Even then, it took quite a while for people to accept what they were accountable for.