The Story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody And Nobody


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?”

There was an important job to be done. 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 done.

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.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images


Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

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 is being released by Portfolio May 2017.

4 Responses to “The Story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody And Nobody”

  1. 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.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Shilpa Gaddikoppula

    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!

    Regards,
    Shilpa

    Reply to this comment
    • Veeresh

      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

      Reply to this comment
  3. Annette Hohnberger

    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.

    Reply to this comment

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