Take the Fear Out of Accountability

The word accountability elicits a threat response from most employees, who interpret the word ‘accountability’ to be synonymous with punishment. Let’s face it, any time there’s a disaster, mistake, or misfortune on the news, the first thing out of the mouth of the officials is, “Who is to be held accountable?” The tone is always one of shame and blame and fingers always start to point before facts are given. Employees at any level of the hierarchy will avoid the pain of blame and punishment if the culture is one which people fear accountability instead of seek accountability to get the intended results.

You can’t blame them, really, for having this kind of visceral recoil from the word, if that’s all it means to them.

But, I believe that that it’s possible to take the fear out of accountability so that your people actually crave accountability rather than cringe when they hear the word.

Here are three ways to go about doing that:

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About the Author

Marlene ChismMarlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker, and the author of two books: No-Drama Leadership: How Enlightened Leaders Transform Culture in the Workplace (Bibliomotion 2015) and Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people discover, develop, and deliver their gifts to the world.

Who is taking responsibility around here? Nobody!

With all the dumb laws on the books these days, you’d think they’d have one smart one for taking responsibility.

Wouldn’t it be cool if every politician wasn’t allowed to blame anybody else, and had to take full responsibility for their own actions and results?

Well, the same is true in sales.

I’m pretty sick of salespeople still telling me, “the guy said he wasn’t interested” and “the guy is happy with his present supplier” and “the guy won’t set an appointment with me” and, my all-time favorite, “the guy wouldn’t return my call.”

As you read those excuses, they seem kind of lame don’t they? Wait! Are they lame? Or are they pathetic excuses for poor salesmanship, poor preparation, lack of ability to transfer a passionate message, lack of belief in your own product or company, lack of perceived value, inability to differentiate yourself from your competitor, and most important, lack of proof?

Whether you’re in politics or sales, the burden is the same: take responsibility for all that happens. And if it’s not happening in the best way possible, take responsibility to make it happen in a better way.

It’s funny how you can picture responsibility and blame in terms of a politician. I mean, come on! Can you imagine a politician saying, “The bill didn’t pass and it was all my fault.” Could you ever imagine that in your lifetime?

That’s why I want taking responsibility to be a law. If it was a law, everyone would be forced to tell the truth, admit their shortcomings, and go back into the battleground and return with a winning result. Politicians included.

Aren’t you sick of blaming? Aren’t you sick of politicians blaming each other ad nauseam for what the other guy didn’t do? Isn’t there a biblical phrase that begins, “Let he who was without sin cast the first stone?” I think if it were law, there would be a lot less stone casting, and a lot more people taking responsibility to make something happen.

Let’s get back to the objection of not getting your call returned. When I hear a salesperson say, “The guy wouldn’t return my call,” I really want to punch somebody in the face (gently, of course).

Let’s take a look at the real reasons someone won’t return your call to help you understand the difference between blaming and taking responsibility:

1. The message you left had no value.
2. The customer has no intention of buying from you and just doesn’t want to tell you.
3. The customer is not ready to buy yet and was too busy with their stuff to deal with you and your stuff.
4. The customer does not consider you a value provider, and is out there looking for one.
5. The customer does not perceive you as being genuine.
6. You are unaware of the customer’s motive to buy, and as a result have a hard time perceiving what their urgency is. Better stated: you don’t know why or when they intend to purchase.
7. The customer is still shopping.
8. You failed to connect emotionally or intellectually with the customer, and they would rather not do business with you.
9. You failed to offer enough proof to eliminate risk and create peace of mind.
9.5 The customer has decided to buy from someone else and feels no sense of obligation to inform you of their decision.

Those are accurate descriptions of some of the real reasons why. “The guy would not return my call” is not a problem. It’s a symptom. ‘Why’ the guy would not return my call is the issue. If I can find out why, and correct it, then more if not all of my calls will begin to be returned.

Wow! What a concept.

Here are three new ways of thinking:

  • I’m going to uncover my customer’s intentions and motives for purchase.
  • I’m going to share with him or her how they produce more and profit more after purchase.
  • I’m going to bring in several of our existing customers who will do video testimonials to corroborate my claims.

A ‘taking responsibility’ law could revolutionize this country. Can you imagine a politician actually having to tell the truth instead of blaming something or someone else?

For the past 100 years, it’s been the same sales. Salespeople and sales trainers conveniently called reasons for not buying, or not communicating, ‘objections,’ thereby shifting the blame to the customer.

HERE’S THE REALITY: There are no objections.

There are barriers. There are symptoms. There are circumstances. But there are no objections. And all of those barriers, symptoms, and circumstances would disappear if the salesperson takes responsibility, studies the outcome, and implements a better way.

Or you can just blame and whine.
Like a politician.

Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer.

About the Author

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website,, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at [email protected].

Pure Accountability

One of the reasons I have always loved high school wrestling as a sport is that a competitor lives and dies on his or her own merits… yes… females are becoming more prevalent in High School wrestling. One of the aspects of the sport that has always attracted me is that when you lose there is no one else to blame.

You can’t hide behind ‘the team’. You are out there on your own. This creates a certain sense of urgency and determination to win. It’s embarrassing to be beaten in front of hundreds of spectators… much less be pinned!

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About the Author

Jeff Kortes is known as the ‘No Nonsense Guy.’ He is the President of Human Asset Management LLC, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive search and leadership training. He has trained hundreds of first-line supervisors, managers, and executives during his career. His approach to training is no-nonsense, and practical.

Jeff is also a member of the National Speakers Association and a regular speaker on the topics of retention, recruiting and leadership. For more information, visit