3by3 on Motivation, Responsibility and Accountability

When I ask managers, “What is it you want most from your employees?” there is one answer that always gets voiced with the early responses, and after it has been spoken aloud it gets the most agreement: No one thereafter can think of what they want more.

“I want my staff to be more motivated and take personal responsibility for their jobs. I don’t want to babysit anymore.”


In my stack to read is a book that was written by one of our Ho‘ohana Community members, Norm Crouse. It’s called Motivation is an Inside Job. I haven’t read Norm’s book yet (and I will Norm!) but for me his title pretty much says it all, for I agree, motivation is an inside job. A person’s desire for doing something is nine tenths of the deal: you can’t motivate someone to do something they have no desire to do.

That part is pretty logical, and you’ve probably heard about Jim Collins’ Good to Great analogy of an organization as a bus: Get the right people on the bus and get them in the right seats (I call it Ho‘ohana :) If they are the right people your mission will light their fire and fuel the whole bus.

Take another look at that Energy Flow of Kuleana I shared with you yesterday:
People who are self-motivated willingly accept responsibility. They take initiative, actively seeking the opportunity to do so: they want to be engaged. Finding that opportunity will create energy and excitement for them.


I believe that responsibility is very much like motivation: it’s personal and self-driven. The responsibility a person has accepted for something is strongest when fulfilling the obligation connected to it satisfies their personal values. They take ownership for it easily, and they feel emotionally connected to it. When you are a responsible, loving parent, no one has to tell you to accept responsibility for your kids. When you love your job, no one has to tell you to take responsibility for doing it.

We’re probably in agreement so far. Now comes the responsibility part I really want to talk about: your responsibility for great management.

What I’ve noticed that managers seem to miss about this is a clear perspective on what their own role as managers is, versus that of the babysitter they claim they don’t want to be.

Managers must learn to be better enablers: they need to shine a brighter light on an employee’s options, and when that employee sees an option as an opportunity, the manager needs to give it to them — translation: delegate it well, and delegate it completely. In doing so you enlarge that employee’s capacity for accepting responsibility and accountability. Go back to the energy flow: not only do you get them excited and re-energized about what they do, you give them an incredible gift.


Accountability comes with ownership. No personal ownership, no personal accountability.

Incomplete ownership = incomplete accountability.

Incomplete accountability = loopholes and excuses all over the place.

If you want someone to take full accountability for something, you need to delegate it to them completely, with full freedom, support, and authority to get the job done. They need to feel they are trusted and empowered.

Then you can hold them accountable.

Stop waiting and be proactive. Get original.

Time and time again I find that managers are waiting. They are waiting for employees to take initiative, just do it, and ask for more responsibility.

Employees are waiting because they cautious. They are very conscious of their implied or understood circle of influence. They don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, least of all their manager’s.

Stop waiting, for everyone’s time is getting wasted. Start the ball rolling. And managers: Being the movers and shakers of the status quo is your responsibility.

Find out what your employees feel they are responsible for, then say “Great!” Voice your support and give them the tools they need to get the job done. Give them complete ownership, and hold them accountable.

You know what? You probably won’t have to. They’ll hold themselves accountable, for the sweetest promise kept is the promise one makes to one’s self.

Related Links:

Lisa Haneberg did a review of Norm Crouse’s book, Motivation is an Inside Job on Management Craft.

This is Norm’s Blog.
Jim Collin’s Site: Great site, wish he had a blog and a feed.

Related Posts:
Your Responsibilities: Joy or Clutter? A helpful exercise is offered here.
The Energy Flow of Kuleana (Responsibility). And how managers can tap into it.



  1. says

    Rosa, I was really struck by your observation that often managers wait for employees to show initiative. Duh! As you point out, this is a matter of energy, something conveyed somatically as much as intellectually or verbally. In a Leadership and Horses seminar, I watched a manager whose complaint was she worked for a government organization where none of the employees took responsibility. Her feeling was they were all just putting in the time toward retirement and she was exhausted compensating. When she got into the ring with the horse and asked it to circle around her, sure enough the horse would walk two slow steps, then stop and look to her for direction. (This same horse wouldn’t slow down for me, which is a mirror of my energy pattern!) Which is the chicken and which the egg?
    You have given some very practical advice for how to draw out the sense of personal responsibility that gives someone’s job meaning.