Don’t miss our QBQ! poll: “Why practice personal accountability?”


Yep, that’s me achieving a rare victory on the wrestling mat in 1974 as a 10th grader. My dad, Jimmy Miller, may have been Cornell’s head coach, but I lacked his natural talent, not to mention his physical strength acquired by milking cows by hand in the 1930s! :-)

However, the sport of “grappling” did teach me one key thing about successful living:

Personal accountability.

Wrestling is an individual sport, even though you’re on a team. It’s so individual, in fact, a wrestler’s team can lose but if he wins his match that day, it’s a good day.

But if he loses out on that mat, there’s no way to blameor “hide behind”—the team.

No hiding behind the team—wouldn’t it be outstanding if we could bring that level of personal accountability into today’s workplace?!

You’ve seen people hide behind the team if you’ve heard:

“Well, the team didn’t get it done.”

“The team missed the goal.”

“The team never gelled.”

“Nobody on the team cares as much as I do.”

“Why doesn’t everyone on the team pull their own weight?”

If you hear stuff like that where you work, there really isn’t any teamwork happening where you work–even if there’s a lot of talk about teamwork and/or the use of gimmicks and fads to “build team spirit” …

Curious, did your executives go river-rafting for a day, returning to the office with a new mantra like this?

Hey, we got wet together so now we can work together!

And the positive impact lasted, oh, about a … day.

Fads may be fun, but what’s missing and needed in underperforming teams is PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY.

A team is like a Florida coastline structure, built above the ground supported by pillars. Its ability to withstand the next hurricane is completely dependent on the integrity—the strength—of each pillar.

Teams are also based on pillars, such as McKenna, Joe, Matt, Rebecca, Joshua, Evelyn … and so on.

Know this:

A team is only as strong as the team members are accountable.

So skip the trip to the river and invest the time, energy, and dollars saved into helping individuals know how to practice personal accountability. Do that and no one will ever again say something like, “There’s plenty of blame to go around!” Outstanding teams and the accountable people on which they’re based don’t buy that lie. Why?

They’re too busy getting the job done.

For comment:

Has your team made personal accountability a core value? If not, what do you see and hear that tells you people are “hiding behind the team”? What is the cost?

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About John G. Miller

John G. Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional and co-author of Parenting the QBQ Way. He is founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm based in Colorado dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been involved in the training and speaking industry since 1986. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Karen. They have seven children and three grandchildren.

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7 Responses to “Accountability = No Hiding Behind the Team”

  1. Mark Ruzicka

    Nicely put! I liked this metaphor and how it can be put in the work place. Personal accountability is not practiced enough. I once worked in a place where personal denial was the common theme and it took people by surprise when I would openly admit “I made a mistake. No excuse.” They didn’t really know what to say.

  2. Wendy

    Hmmm. Nice article. I may have to look at how I’m playing on my team! I tend to be very open about making mistakes and very willing to correct them, apologize, etc., but I think there may still be a small tendency to lean on the team structure more than I should. Always good to have a new perspective. Thanks! :)

  3. Lance Rutz

    This was a great read, I have the book in my office and it has changed my veiws in regards to blame and accountability.

  4. Sarah

    If there are a lot of individuals who work hard ALONE (personally accountable), where does TEAM fit into the equation? What about interdependent team work and collaboration? As a leader, I love the idea of asking how I can help and what I can do to support the efforts of individuals and the team…but what are your suggestions for working with “dysfunctional teams”, as described in the first sentence of the comment?

  5. Ron Shank

    You’ve inspired me yet again to put a slip of paper in ye ole corporate suggestion box. “Executive wresting matches.” #brilliant

  6. Nick

    It’s such a great feeling to watch good teams circle the wagons to help lift one of their team members who has made a mistake and taken personal responsibility for it. It makes everybody more motivated and productive individually and as a whole to know that you have a team ready to support you after the inevitable mistakes that flow from taking action and risks for a common goal. Great post.

    Also, I agree with Ron.


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