More Accountability, Less Blame

More accountability, less blame


Let’s start by agreeing or disagreeing with something Richard Branson said sometime ago:

“The customer is NEVER number one; our own people are always number one.”

What do you think? Is he correct? I believe he is.


Let me tell you why

Do you remember on the Personal Leadership Programme that there was a session that looked at the Organisation and the Individual? It was said that the Organisation is all about systems and structures, policies and procedures and so much more. Then there is the individual who is not really too excited about structures, systems etc. but much more concerned with his/her dreams, ideas, opinions, ambitions. It was also agreed that, in order for effective leadership to have the slightest chance, one needs to negotiate a balance in one’s leadership life, between faithfully serving the organisation and giving full and proper attention to the individuals who make up that organisation. And it is true, that over the last decades of the history of business, we have seen businesses fail because they did not get that balance right – they either fell prey to allowing the individual too much freedom, too few constraints or they engaged in over-governance, relying on dictatorial methods to induce allegiance.

By the way, where on this continuum, between over-governance and unrestrained liberty, is your organisation at the moment?

But to get back to our initial suggestion concerning the critical importance of the relationship that the organisation has to have with the individual worker – that this relationship is MORE critical than the organisation-customer relationship.


Think of it this way

Who, in your organisation, do you depend upon to build a good relationship with your customers, to sell your product or service? Who do you rely on to serve the “end-user” with the kind of service you as an organisation promise? The answer is – an individual!

  • If you are a recruitment business – you rely on the individual recruitment consultant to serve your clients and candidates.
  • If you are a call-centre business – you rely on the individual call-centre operator to win over your customers
  • If you are a hospital – you rely on the individual nurse (or doctor) at the bedside to comfort and care for your patients
  • If you are a school or college – you rely on the individual teacher/lecturer to teach your students the way they ought to be taught.
  • If you are a restaurant – you rely on the individual chef or waiter to proved the customer service that will bring them back

So we could say that the relationship between the individual and the customer is so critical, that without it you have no business.

But there is another relationship that is even more important! And that is the relationship between the organisation and the individual worker (consultant, teacher, chef). We generally refer to this relationship as “employee engagement”. But why is this relationship so critical, even more than the customer relationship?

Because if the relationship between the organisation and the individual worker breaks down or ceases to function as it should, that breakdown, that dysfunction will likely get passed on by the individual worker to the customer or end user.

  • How does a fed up recruitment consultant deal with his candidates?
  • How does a disillusioned call-centre operator, sound over the pone to her potential customer?
  • How does a disengaged teacher, handle the pupils in his class?
  • How does a fatigued, disenfranchised nurse, treat her patients when they need her?
  • How does the undervalued, overworked waiter, come across to his restaurant customers?

Do you see the problem? Do you see that when you don’t treat your workers with compassion and genuine engagement, how can you expect them to treat your customers any better? And if you have a corps of motivated, engaged, enthusiastic workers, how do think they may pass that enthusiasm on to the customers?

That is why the organisation-employee relationship is ALWAYS more important than the organisation-customer relationship. And it is why I always say:

You never become the supplier of choice, until you first become the employer of choice.

And at the very heart of all of this is one word – accountability. Both the organisation, the leadership and the workers on the “front-line” must understand and practice true accountability.

A culture of accountability is the most important element in ‘making things happen’

It doesn’t matter how clear and compelling the vision of your company is or how clever the strategy is to deliver that vision – if you don’t have a culture of accountability you will be merely ’wheel spinning’ – putting in huge effort but not actually going anywhere.

On the journey through life, there are 3 kinds of people:

  • Drivers
  • Passengers
  • Road-kill

The best choice is to get into the driving seat.


What is accountability and why is it fundamental to getting things done?  And, why is it so important that we create a culture of accountability?

Well for the WHY and the HOW of these questions that we will be dealing with on the Power of 10 programme – so make sure you sign up.


 Written by Rob Gee | Senior Partner of The Living Leader | Power of 10

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