Personal Accountability: The Simple Solution to Complex Problems

By John G. Miller


This is a special guest post by John G. Miller, Author of QBQ!

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There’s plenty of blame to go around!


Often spoken by the media, the phrase above has become prevalent, possibly because blame has become so popular.

•    Parents blame the schools, churches and Hollywood for how their kids turn out. (Please see Raising Accountable Kids )

•    Spouses blame each other (sometimes with their attorneys present).

•    Sales reps blame their sales managers.

•    Employers blame the employees.

•    Workers blame management.

•    Voters blame the politicians they elected.

•    Politicians blame their predecessors.

•    Coaches and players blame the referees.


And everyone blames “the economy.” Why not? It’s so easy! The more complex a situation is, the more blame there will be. Just look at the financial world.


The Great Recession of 2008 brought about finger-pointing on steroids. We heard all about how the collapse of the real estate market was the fault of George Bush, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Congress, the evil banks and lenders, and, of course, big and bad Wall Street.


The painful truth is, if I bought a home that I couldn’t afford and lost that house a year later—I was personally accountable for my decision. The world isn’t complicated, complex, or confusing when one decides to practice personal accountability.


On the job, it’s easy to look outside of ourselves for the cause when the new client doesn’t come on board, the project is delayed, deadlines are missed, quality falters, turnover is too high, and sales goals aren’t met.


“Why don’t I get more support?”

“When will I get more training?”

“Who’s going to give me more leads?”

“Why won’t the client listen to me?”

“When will marketing do more for us???”


These lousy questions take us to blame instead of results—and blame is costly.


Costs of Blame

  • Indicts people

  • Destroys morale

  • Reduces creativity

  • Lowers productivity

  • Increases fear

  • Drives wedges between colleagues

  • Breaks down teams

  • Solves no problems


Know this: When pointing fingers, we’re not using our time, energy and creativity to solve a problem. Nothing gets fixed when we are fixated on who is “at fault.”


As we write in QBQ! The Question Behind the Question , leaders at all levels (that’s you and me) blame nobody—not even themselves. Since everyone commits errors, this simply means that if it’s me who committed one, I don’t have to beat myself up over it. The right questions (we call them QBQs) to ask are, “What can I learn from this experience?” and “How can I move forward to solve the problem?”


Blame-busting questions like the two above put me on the path of personal accountability—and that’s the place to be. No matter who or what caused a problem, QBQs—excellent questions that lead to personal accountability—do bust the blame.


And it’s always good to be a blame buster.


In Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional , we explore the danger of seeking culprits. In the end, solving client problems, excelling in our work, building relationships, and reaching our goals are driven by introspection, vulnerability, learning, passion, and the desire to serve, work hard—and practice personal accountability.


Never by seeking culprits. Finger-pointing, recrimination, and blame take us nowhere.


In the end, the solution to the seemingly ever-present blame game is not complicated. Rather, it’s quite simple. When I decide to practice personal accountability , everything is better.


John G. Miller is the founder of QBQ, Inc., a Denver-based organizational development firm dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” John invested a decade selling/implementing leadership training. His QBQ! material was mined and developed facilitating 10,000 hours of corporate training!


A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John lives in Denver with his wife, Karen. The Millers have six daughters, one son, and seven grandchildren. Learn more at Reach John by email here: .