The Power of One Question Leads to Greater Accountability

HarryTrumanWhen things go wrong, it is easy to makes excuses or blame others for getting in the way of success. We all go there occasionally, but this “victim” mindset is just a smoke-screen for lack of accountability and ownership for results.

“Every excuse I ever heard made perfect sense to the person who made it. ” ― Dr. Daniel T. Durban

It sounds something like this:

  • “My team missed the deadline because the XYZ group …”
  • “I’m waiting for approval”
  • “I have no control over …”
  • “If they’d just do their job” or “it’s not my job”
  • “The shift in the economy caused …”
  • “You should have told me …”

In reality, most successful people are clear about the outcomes they are working toward and are willing to be personally accountable in spite of obstacles. With that said – we can’t do it alone. Organizations are moving to more project based initiatives or matrix organizations. This increases the need for high levels of collaboration, cross-functional knowledge sharing and trusting relationships.  It can also cause the increase of finding who’s at fault? when times get tough.

In the book The OZ Principle written by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman it says, “You must become an expert at asking the question, ‘What else can you do?‘ to make further progress toward the desired outcome.” I believe asking this question first of ourselves will ensure we are focused on results, solutions and actions which has a much higher probability for success than passively making excuses for why success is out of our reach.


Here are some starters:

  • Get out of your comfort zone and closer to the action to build connections with people and learn about the obstacles they are facing.
  • Take a genuine interest in understanding other’s perspectives and resolving issues together with the end in mind.
  • Influence others by leading by example.
  • Create an environment of collaboration and team accountability.
  • Ask for feedback and how you can help.
  • Recognize good work and accountable behaviors.

Shelli Walker is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on twitter @ShelliWalker or connect via email at