The Irony of Accountability

Not long ago, I was working with a senior team, in a session being held at a country club.  Most golf clubs try very hard to provide a top-notch client experience, and this one was no different. Our past experiences there have always been terrific.

Breakfast was scheduled for 8:00, and everyone was going to fill up their plates, return to their tables, and we were to start at 8:15. At 8:00 there was no food. We question the staff people serving us, and off they went, back into the kitchen. Soon, we were advised, they would try to have food out by 8:30. So we started. Breakfast arrived around 8:25 and we interrupted our discussion and grabbed a bite to eat. This was no doubt an inconvenience, getting an important day started off a little bumpy. That said, it was by no means a crisis.

Mid-morning, during a short break, a fellow from the kitchen came up to me and the company president, who is a member of the club, and had arranged this session. He apologized for the earlier mess up, and announced that the problem was entirely his. “It was my fault. I screwed up” were the words he used. No blame or lengthy excuses, just owning up and offering a sincere apology. How refreshing!

Accountability is a wonderful thing. Our earlier disappointment was quickly washed away by this clear example of accountability. In fact, through his directness and vulnerability, he actually raised our confidence in him related to his future performance with us. How ironic was that?

You and everyone else will screw up on occasions. However, when you take ownership of a miscue, do not play the blame or “not my fault” game, genuinely apologize, and state clear and reassuring steps forward, you can often deflect people way from dwelling on the past problem, and re-focus them on the positive next interaction they will have with you.

Might all aspects of your life be better, if everyone with whom you dealt, behaved in this no-nonsenses, total accountable manner? You can’t control how others are going to interact with you when the ball is dropped, but you can sure determine how you will act with them when you fall short. Try being that role model of accountability with others. Who knows, maybe some of it will rub off on them – at least when they deal with you.

Back to the club experience, I will never know if the breakfast breakdown really was our friend’s direct responsibility. He may have done everything he possibly could, to have the morning staff ready to perform. That didn’t matter. In his mind, the proverbial buck stopped with him and no one else.

That mindset of owning the outcome, rather than  just your own contribution to it, can change everything. It will demonstrate to others, including customers,  that you truly care more about the results they receive, than simply  achieving your own somewhat selfish outcome of saving face or looking good in their eyes.

If you are wondering, lunch came out right on time! And we will be going back.


  1. When we pee in the stream, it affects those down stream. This story is a wonderful reminder to own the situation rather “pissing” in the stream! Stop being afraid and living into shame. Stop being a victim and start being a victor!

    Carrpe Diem!


    • Steve C. says:

      As you and I have previously discussed, a lot of behavior is guided by fear, expressed and unexpressed. I suppose in their attempts to avoid the fear of looking bad, some will attempt to fade out of sight and never have their hands associated with being on anything. People who follow that strategy seldom add value to anything and actually stifle growth. Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing number of hand’s off people today, in all walks of life.

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