Beyond Blame:
The Dos and Don'ts of Responsibility

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Sadly Neglected
Sometimes things don’t go as well as I like.

My expensive PR agent’s actions fell far short of what he promised he would do for my new book release. My CD duplication rep changed companies without telling me. The person who answered his number knew nothing of my order or the $5000 deposit I had provided. My assistant became so bad at meeting deadlines I was never sure if she would come through with what she promised.

If you’re like me, you’ll understand that a part of me wanted blood. If you’re like me, you also know a part of me was sympathetic when they asked me to overlook their errors.

To Know All Is to Forgive All
Stephen Covey says to understand all is to forgive all. And I did. My publicist’s life was one crisis after another. My duplicator moved to a new company in the city where his mother lived because she needed his care. He took my project with him and was so overwhelmed he hadn’t notified me. My assistant was reluctant to decline assignments when her schedule became overloaded. I understood. I didn’t blame them, I even forgave. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t hold them accountable. I needed people who could do the job I hired them to do.

There is no place for blame, but there is plenty of place for holding people accountable.

Blame Versus Accountability
Here’s what blame does:

· Blame examines responsibility to condemn and punish.
· Blame focuses only on what went wrong.
· Blame is black and white in its assessment.
· Blame is emotional.
· Blame is personal.

Here’s what accountability does:

· Accountability examines responsibility to discover what can be done.
· Accountability focuses on what happened and what needs to be corrected.
· Accountability explores the complexity of situations.
· Accountability is reasonable.
· Accountability examines situations, decisions and behaviors rather than people.

Blame tends to err on the side of being unreasonable and unforgiving. Accountability forgives the forgivable but does not accept the unacceptable. Speaking Strong helps you figure out if the unacceptable can be made acceptable.

I needed a publicist for my new book. I understood the personal pressures my publicist was under and did not blame my PR rep for his failure to perform. However, when things did not improve, I wasn’t going to pretend he performed well, I canceled our contract, and I still will not recommend him to anyone. (Years later he acknowledged that he doesn’t have the detail awareness for the PR business.)

My duplicator and I had a strong conversation about communication and we came to an understanding. He turned the project around almost on time and at a great price. I used him successfully twice since.

My assistant and I had a heart-to-heart talk and mutually decided that after two wonderful years, her priorities had changed and it was time to move on.

It is not necessary to blame someone to hold them accountable. It is helpful to forgive the forgivable and it is necessary to not accept the unacceptable. Speak Strong to see if you can make the unacceptable acceptable. If the answer is no, accountability means you may need to move on.

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Meryl Runion and Speak Strong (SpeakStrong) provides Power Phrases (PowerPhrases) and other tools to help you improve communication skills at work and at home. You can read more about her at

Meryl is the author of six books on communication that have sold over a quarter million copies worldwide, including Speak Strong, PowerPhrases!, How to Use PowerPhrases, Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisors, and How to Say It: Performance Reviews. You can reach her at 719-684-2633, or by email:

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