Recently I told a group of leadership executives a simple but meaningful story that you may have heard before. It’s the story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
Here’s the story, titled “Whose Job Is It, Anyway?”
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.
The story may be confusing but the message is clear: no one took responsibility so nothing got accomplished.
It’s a story that plays out often in organizations and companies and on teams—anywhere there is culture that lacks accountability.
But how do you get people to take responsibly for their work? Different things work in different situations, but here are some strategies that have proven to be effective:
Become a role model. You can’t tell people what to do if you yourself aren’t willing to hold yourself to the same level. If you want people to act responsibly, you have to be accountable. Your team and your company look to you for direction.
Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that others know instinctively what to do and when to do it, or even what you expect from them. Before people can take responsibility for their work they require clear communication. The more you communicate, the better the results are likely to be.
Set the standard. If you expect excellence, it’s up to you to set the standards for results and performance. Make each task or goal measurable and set it on a reasonable timeline so it’s achievable. Give people a clear target and they’ll work to reach it—and maybe even surpass it.
Get the buy-in to go the distance. You need people to buy in and commit if you want to succeed. Each vision should be compelling; each goal should build toward the whole; each task should be laced with motivation. You need people to feel compelled, inspired and motivated to take responsibility.
Make regular check-ups. One of the biggest reasons people fall short is a lack of follow-through by leadership. Help people stay focused by setting up regular checkpoints—phone calls or meetings where everyone can communicate and catch up, staying focused on moving forward and being accountable. When people know there will be check-ups, they’re less likely to procrastinate and more likely to hit their targets.
Provide support and training. Especially with a start-up or a new initiative, people are taking on projects or tasks that they’ve never faced before. Make sure everybody has the training and resources they need to be successful, and provide help in resolving any issues that may arise.
Encourage candor. One of the worst things that can happen to a team is for people to feel uncomfortable discussing problems and expressing their honest opinions. Build a culture of candor so that people know it’s the norm to tell the truth, even when it’s difficult or awkward.
Concentrate on solutions and not only problems. If people are having problems or falling behind, expect them to come to you with possible solutions, not just the problems. Create an expectation that the first response to a problem is to start finding solutions.
Praise performance. Praise people for good results and be specific with your acknowledgment. Let them know what they did well and how their work is affecting others. If they fall short, coach them privately and let them know how they can improve. And if their performance does not improve, also address this with meaningful consequences that have been explained ahead of time.
To avoid having your team become Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody, commit to becoming the kind of leader who takes responsibility for your own life and leadership.
Lead from within: Don’t let Anybody (or Everybody, Somebody or Nobody) stop you from doing what you need to do to create the kind of leadership and life you can be proud of.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.
February 20, 2022
[…] There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have. – Lolly Daskal […]
January 7, 2023
[…] The Story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody And Nobody […]
Colonel (Retired) Larry M. Keeton
27. Jun, 2017
If people don’t believe in climate change, check any organization – public or private. The leader establishes the climate. Poor leaders equal turbulent times, often ending in shipwrecks. Good leaders equal fair sailing, surviving temporary squalls, and reaching port. Key to good leadership is establishing accountability as you point out.
As a career Army officer, accountability wasn’t an option. Soldiers lives depended on it. I find it fascinating that many of today’s leaders seem to miss the point that people’s lives depend on them. As does their organization’s success. Proof is the Gallup polls on engagement and the tremendous lost to the economy by non-engaged managers and workforce.
Great post. Thanks.
01. Jul, 2017
Lolly, your work on leadership is fantastic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with everyone. Authenticity, trust, transparency and accountability are definitely some of the most important traits that a leader should display!
Great work again!
28. Jul, 2017
How about discipline, fairness, dedication, honesty, perseverance, trust, faith etc. These are also the essential traits of a good leader. When you are the leader of a team, be the first to accept responsibility for failure and the last to accept credit for the success of a team work. This is the basic mantra
25. Jul, 2017
Lolly, these are excellent tips on leadership. There’s way more management in the corporate as well as people’s personal lives than leadership. Accountability, follow-through, performance acknowledgement and solution driven perspective are all crucial traits that are sorely missing in the op echelons of the corporate world. We need more of these in corporate America and personal lives.
28. Aug, 2018
Few people understand the intricacies of what has been told by lolly.
Afterall who cares! At the end of the day for everybody ,money matters.
principles and ethics have become things of the past. Everything has been commercialised to such an extent , hardly any moral values are left.
31. Dec, 2018
“The story may be confusing but the message is clear: no one took responsibility so nothing got accomplished”, is what Lolly says above. Might sound nitpicky, but in the story above, it did get done. A person named Nobody did it, even though it was a person named Everybody’s job. Funny to me that Lolly said the story was confusing, and he/she seems to be the one confused. Try reading it again, and I believe you will understand that there are four people in the story, and that the person named Nobody did the work that the person named Everybody was supposed to do. Enough out of me. Just don’t want you to lose credibility by misinterpreting the story and its meaning.
16. Jan, 2019
It’s all about money, making profit, hitting targets. That why moral in the work place doesn’t exist no more. Most employers will say if you don’t like it use the door. Leave in other word. First hand experience. But good work Lolly.
07. Nov, 2019
Good Job Lolly!!!
It’s All about to be the person that you are!
Need to be
Agressive, Good co Worker, responsability, Accountable, well educated, honesty… Yes, money is important, but will save your soul?
The question is for those who said it’s all about money!!!
18. Jan, 2021
This is a very interesting article to read on. I will bookmark your blog and share this with my friends. This is one of the great lists. Keep up!
16. Mar, 2021
Loved your content Lolly, very well-written and informative! Thanks for sharing, this post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.
16. Oct, 2021
I love that story. It’s true we should all be working together and not against for the sake of the planet and humanity,
16. Oct, 2021
I love that story. It’s true, We should all be working together for the sake of our planet and humanity.
John A Curry
30. Jan, 2023
You hit the nail on the head. I have a larger corporation as a customer who uses Teams and Email addressed as “Hey Team” which then sits with no action because it is not addressed to who should be taking the action. Pet peeve of mine. 90% of these are left unanswered until someone blows up and starts naming names. if they would direct the request to ANY person responsible, things would move along faster with less confusion.