Accountability Killers to Avoid

Most of us are guilty of small behaviors that crack our accountability facade and hurt us—both personally and professionally—far more than we realize. We know a lack of accountability when we see it, but rarely do we stop to examine what accountability is in action. That’s why it’s so easy for little behaviors— or “accountability killers”—to worm their way unnoticed into our lives and businesses.

Often, we’re critical of these behaviors when we see them displayed by other people, but we give ourselves a pass when we’re the ones engaging in them. No matter how often it does or doesn’t happen, failing to act accountably can damage your reputation, your relationships, your dealership staying power, and more. Below is a list of accountability killers to avoid in your business and personal life.  

Showing up late. Sure, there are legitimate reasons why even the most responsible person might be running late. And yes, everybody gets a pass on this one from time to time when life’s curveballs happen. But if it happens again and again, you’ve got a problem.

If tardiness is a habit—if others expect it from you rather than being surprised by it—you’re not being accountable. In effect, what you’re saying is, “I don’t value your time, "I believe I’m more important than you,” or “It’s not important to me to honor the agreement we made.”

Saying you’ll do it ... and then not doing it. Again, sometimes “life” happens. If an unforeseen accident or crisis derails your best intentions, most folks are likely to understand. But if you fail to meet your commitments more than once or twice, you lack accountability. If you find yourself constantly making excuses, asking for more time, or expecting others to understand why you “just didn’t get around to it,” it’s time to make a change. Either start pushing yourself harder or stop making promises you can’t keep. This is especially important in the service department and when dealing with landscape contractor customers.

Being offended by the truth. When someone calls you out—for dropping the ball, for behaving badly, etc.—how do you react? If you’re indignant or offended instead of accepting that the other person has made a valid observation, you’ve just killed your accountability. Denying or just having a bad attitude about what’s obviously true will cause your credibility and trustworthiness to take a significant hit.

Covering up mistakes. The fact that others don’t know about a slip-up doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. If nothing else, your accountability will suffer in your own eyes. You also run the risk of setting a bad precedent for yourself. The next time something comes up, you’ll think to hide it the same as you did before. Do this enough times and the tendency to cover up becomes a habit. You get away with it so you start to think it is acceptable behavior. But if your actions do come to light, your reputation will take two hits: one for the original mistake and one for trying to hide it.

Blaming others. The so-called “blame game” is one in which nobody wins—least of all the person pointing the finger. Even if the fault lies with someone else, part of being an accountable person means doing your best to offer solutions in addition to pointing out problems. And if the blame does lie with you, it’s dishonest and reprehensible to attempt to shift it to someone else. Always own up to your mistakes. Even if you experience unpleasant short-term consequences, you’ll build an overall reputation for integrity when you own up to your mistakes.

Doing the bare minimum. Is your M.O. to do just enough to get by and then hope no one calls you on it? Do you ever withhold information or shoot down ideas that could make a project better because it will require you to do more work? If so, not only are you preventing yourself from giving and doing your best, you’re also making yourself look bad in the eyes of others. This also keeps you from providing top-notch customer service. Training customers to expect the best from you is how independent dealers stay in business next to the Big Box let-downs.

Ignoring the bad behavior of others. Ignoring someone else’s bad behavior is just as bad as committing the act yourself. When people see you ignoring these problems—especially when you’re in a position to do something about them—they think you’re approving the bad behavior. Don’t be guilty by association. Speak up and show that you value fairness and respect. Encourage your staff to do the same.

Failing to take or give feedback. When you can’t or won’t take feedback, you communicate to others that you aren’t interested in improving your individual or dealership performance. There are also accountability implications associated with being unwilling to give feedback—it shows that you’re concerned with only your piece of the puzzle instead of the big picture. Be clear with staff about your level of happiness with their performance and welcome any feedback they give you about yours.

Being a victim instead of a solution finder. Sometimes, the bad things that happen to you really aren’t your fault. Maybe a part you need for a customer’s repair is on backorder. The way you choose to handle these situations can still add to or detract from your accountability in the eyes of your staff, the customer and the supplier. Do what you can to find a solution and move forward. Let others see that you’re willing to take responsibility, even when a problem wasn’t your fault.

If you want to build genuine, lasting success in any aspect of your life, you need to be someone whom others can trust. Anytime you give another person a reason to question your honesty, dependability, intentions or values, you’ll incur consequences. The good news is, most “accountability killers”—as well as their ramifications—are preventable if you’re willing to look closely and honestly at your own behaviors.

About the Authors
Julie Miller and Brian Bedford joined forces to establish MillerBedford Executive Solutions in 2001. MillerBedford helps businesses and organizations improve strategy, culture and leadership, while addressing issues that limit success. In their new book, Culture Without Accountability—WTF? What’s the Fix?, they examine what can happen when businesses, teams, families and individuals shirk accountability. It offers a proven process for installing an accountability-based culture, a platform for success in business and in everyday life. For more information, please visit