The 6 Words of Personal Accountability

“Black and white” Defined:

Involving one idea that is clearly right and another that is clearly wrong, so it is not difficult to make a moral decision. (Source: MacMillan Dictionary)

black-white image

I posted a question on our QBQ! Facebook page and received some surprising responses—at least to me.

The question:

In your opinion, are employees responsible for the organization’s profit or is profit a management job?

The answers:

  • It’s everyone’s responsibility.
  • Both! Management sets the goals, employee’s execute the plan.
  • Profit is the responsibility of everyone who works in the company.
  • Every employee. Management cannot do it unless each employee is included.
  • Without profit, the organization does not exist so profitability is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Employees.

Then there was the anti-capitalism response:

  • I have a problem with profit. That’s all I’ll say.

That person must not want to be employed for very long. 🙂

At best, I find the answers to our profit question to be curious and, at worst, a tad worrisome. How come it’s so difficult to see some things as black and white?

Let’s convert the above Q&A exchange into these:

Question: Are we each responsible for our emotions or are our feelings the responsibility of those around us?

Wrong Answer: Everyone!

Question: Are my parents, spouse, friends, co-workers, bosses, and the government responsible for my success or is that my responsibility?

Wrong Answer: Everyone!

Question: Are the schools responsible for a child’s behavior or is the child’s behavior the parent’s responsibility?

Wrong Answer: Everyone!  (More on accountable parenting)

Making EVERYONE accountable feels sort of silly, don’t you think?

Now, back to profit. Not to offend, but let’s define “profit”:

Incoming money (revenue) less outgoing money (expenses) equals the thing that provides for the ongoing existence of the organization.

And that is not the responsibility of a salesperson, receptionist, software developer, cashier, or even an accountant.

The responsibility for an organization’s profitability always lies with management.

What are employees responsible for, you ask?

Doing their jobs—and doing them well.

Does this mean management can’t get “everyone” involved in watching expenses, finding ways to be efficient, and cutting costs? Of course not. But that’s not what our Facebook question asked.

I own QBQ, Inc. Daughter, Kristin, has been with me as an employee of the company since 2008.

She’s a tremendous teammate/colleague/asset as she travels the country speaking on QBQ! and helping her not-very-detail-oriented dad do the “admin” side of the business. What a blessing to have her on the team!

However, if QBQ, Inc. goes broke and disappears from this planet—it will not be on Kristin.

That failure will be “my bad.”

I. Am. 100%. Accountable.

Does this seem too “black and white” to you? Well, here’s the thing about the QBQ! message of PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY:

Allowing shades of gray to enter our minds opens the door to excuse-making—and accountable people don’t open that door, they don’t make excuses.

Accountable people live by these six words:

No Excuses. I own the result!

And that’s black and white to me.


In what area of my life have I resisted accepting “black and white” accountability?

Where have I allowed excuse-making to enter my thinking?

How would a “100% accountable” mindset benefit me right now?

Comment below!

Special Note:
Thanks to each of you for commenting on last week’s Courtesy, Rudeness, Meetings, and Teamwork  blog. Clearly, the whole interrupting people in meetings thing is a big problem!
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5 Responses

  1. John,

    Interesting perspective! As a CEO/CFO of a company for 30+ years, I can certainly understand and appreciate your perspective that responsibility for an organization’s profit always lies with management. As someone that has been responsible for managing the affairs of a business for over 30 years, the “secret sauce” is creating a culture where each member of the team (shareholder or not) feels a sense of ownership and responsibility for company performance. This culture needs to be coupled with a reward structure that compensates team members by enabling them to participate in the profitability of the company. A key success factor in this process is educating team members about all aspects of business and engaging them in the company’s strategic planning process. This is not an easy process however the rewards are enormous (by any measurable standards). Food for thought….. Thank you for QBQ! Over the past 10+ years, we have successfully woven QBQ! in to the fabric of our organization. I believe we have been able to successfully use QBQ! as an important management tool in helping to build a great company. Bruce

  2. Thank you! Another great reminder. I recently had the opportunity to begin working with a MLM business. It is a great business, but as I recruited a few people under me I learned a few things about how hard, or not hard, people want to work for their OWN business and profitability. Even 15 – 30 minutes a day can help someone be profitable in this business, yet some are still resistant to putting even that much work into something. Simply amazing to me.

  3. “The role of the workforce is to work within the system. The role of management is continuous improvement of the system with the aid of an engaged workforce.” W. Edwards Deming

    You are exactly right! The success of the system (profitability) rests upon the shoulders of management. The role of the workforce is to do their jobs well and safely based on the system that management provides (tools, knowledge, opportunity).

    “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results that it gets – and the system includes people.” The system is management’s responsibility.

    Steven J. Moore
    Dir. Quality Improvement Systems
    Wausau Paper Corp.
    1150 Industry Rd.
    Harrodsburg, KY 40330
    (859) 733-7969 (office)
    (715) 550-4429 (cell)

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