Leadership Lesson: Assign Responsibility to the Person to Increase Accountability

We love a hurrah story — A story when a group comes together in lieu of a single goal, working together cooperatively and achieving success.

A hurrah story is big picture.

It makes a great story, but when you inspect it more carefully, you can see that this hurrah story is made out of a bunch of less glamorous stories of people achieving a single task with excellence and focus.

What do I mean? Let me tell you a story…

An OFW father buys a car to his four kids.


I will give you this car for you to take care of,” he said. “With this car, you can take your mother out and use it whenever you need. I leave it up to you to take care of the gas, maintenance and scheduling on who will use it at what time.”

The kids thanked him for the gift and took the car.

Three years later, when the man came back home from his overseas assignment, he was surprised to see the car beat up and broken. The oil hasn’t been changed for three years, and no body ever took it for maintenance. It was a far cry from the brand new car he gifted his kids three years ago.

What happened to the car?!” he shouted at his kids.

The children shrugged. Apparently, everyone was so busy using and abusing the car, that nobody bothered to take care of it.

When they used it, they made sure that there was still enough gas to bring it home. Nobody bothered to fill it up because everyone felt the other person should fill the gas up.

When the car started breaking down and needed maintenance, nobody bothered to take it to the casa and have it repaired. They felt that it was somebody’s problem to have it fixed.

When one child dented the car, they just shrugged, knowing that they’ve had it dented too one way or the other. It was not their issue to have it repaired. Anyway, it was the family car, not their car.

I tell the story to open your eyes to human nature — When it’s everyone’s job to take care of the car, NOBODY TAKES CARE OF THE CAR.

Most people actually only take care of items they consider theirs. If it’s the group’s stuff, nothing gets taken care of.

As bosses, I always have to remind myself to assign responsibilities to a specific person and not as a group.

For example, I assign my staff specific tasks to keep the office clean — I ask A to wipe the table. I ask J to mop the floor. C is in charge of sweeping the floor and taking out the garbage. When you assign people tasks, things get done.

For job responsibilities, I make it clear who does what — L is in charge of inventory. C is in charge of hiring and making sure incident reports regarding our staff are properly filed. J is in charge of accounting and recording.

I don’t assign supervisors to take care of operations — I assign them to take care of specific areas, and operate independently of other areas. If anything gets f*cked up in an area, that area supervisor in charge of the area is accountable. She can’t blame anyone else.

When everyone is clear on their specific assignments, things get done more effectively. They know it’s their job and they are responsible for its output. They can’t finger blame anyone else.

So to you bosses, if you want business to operate smoothly, make sure you assign people to specific tasks. Don’t just wave your hand and say, “Do it,” without making it clear WHO should do it. When people are confused, there will be a lot of blaming and pushing responsibilities around, and nothing gets done… same way as nobody took care of the car.

Do you agree or not? Comments appreciated below.

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