Clarifying Accountability

Dear QBQ! team,

I purchased the QBQ! book from Dave Ramsey’s website and love it! So much so, that I keep it on my desk and refer to it often before meetings, traveling, weekends—about anytime I need to be reminded of what personal accountability really means and how to practice it.

Recently, a colleague borrowed the book. A month later, after much prodding by me, it was returned to my desk when I was out. It had this note attached:

“Here ‘ya go. Loved the book. As you can see, my new puppy got a hold of it. Thanks!”

See picture:

Slightly stunned, I decided to keep this same copy on my desk as a reminder of how some view “personal accountability” and how I need to remember what it really means. I still laugh out loud when I tell the story about the person who probably never saw how ironic it was to return damaged my QBQ! book about personal accountability—and assume no responsibility for replacing it!

Warm regards,

Tami B.

Toledo, OH


A funny story and image for sure. But seriously, why is there confusion over the meaning of “personal accountability”? I don’t know, but here’s what I see:

Many think it’s a group thing, so we engage in oxymorons like “shared accountability,” “team accountability,” and “accountability groups.” All nice sounding, but they aren’t PERSONAL accountability. Or some think it’s about holding other people accountable–at least managers, parents, and friends often see it that way. And in a country going through a presidential election with all its attendant acrimony, we see people on television—talking heads with not much in their heads—screaming about how the other side should be more accountable. We read about famous athletes and Hollywood celebrities who fall from grace who need to be held accountable. We want psychiatrists, who treat unpredictably deadly men, to be held accountable for their patient’s future horrific actions. And then there’s the movement demanding apologies from every person who misspeaks and thus offends. Sometimes the media and public even cry out for someone to apologize for someone else’s words! It never seems to end.

By the way, this is still my fav t-shirt: “I’m offended because you’re offended!”

There’s certainly a lot of “other people should be held accountable” thinking in our world.

I spoke in Hopkinsville, Kentucky Saturday evening for an organization that owns eleven CASE tractor dealerships. It was their annual ESOP event, which really speaks to accountability, eh? (Um, the “O” in ESOP is “ownership.”)

When I asked the audience to imagine a United States of America based on personal responsibility, I could hear the collective gasps in the hall—people were either picturing it clearly and feeling the excitement that would come from that new reality … or thinking it can never be again.

Well, when it comes to hope and change, I am hoping America can change, returning to its roots of accountability, responsibility, and personal ownership. But it won’t happen until we’re each clear about what they look like and where it all starts:

It’s about asking The Question Behind the Question—or QBQs like these:

“What can I do today to make a difference in this world?”

“How can I contribute to the lives of those around me?”

“What can I do to not envy other people’s achievements, possessions, and success and work really hard to succeed myself?!”

And all of that starts with me.

Lastly, a 4 minute video message from me on The Myths of Accountability:

John G. Miller

Author of QBQ!


2 Responses

  1. Tough break Tami! At least he returned the book, right? (-;

    I think a lot of the reason personal responsibility has fallen by the wayside is the current attitude of the US. So many people make it about how I feel and what I want that the effects of our actions no longer matter. And when it’s time to take responsibility it doesn’t feel good so it’s a matter of not accepting it to continue our self-centeredness.

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