The Margaritaville Model for Accountability


If you are like me, you are tired of hearing individuals blame others for their mistakes and failures. It seems that every day, we see a news story in which some individual attempts to deflect responsibility to someone else for something they should have or could have handled personally. In fact, individuals that fail, in these cases, often try to completely flip to situation to make themselves look like a victim.

Accountability is one of those “key attributes” that employers always list when they seek key leaders. Yet, as we have all experienced, it is the rare individual that will step up and assume their share of responsibility. Someone once said, “A good leader always assumes responsibility when things go wrong, but highlights the team when things go well.” Too often, today’s leaders would do just the opposite.

We have probably all heard Jimmy Buffet’s hit song “Margaritaville”. We probably know most of the lyrics and could sing the song in our sleep. However, have you ever really listened to the lyrics carefully? Did you realize that this song actually includes a good model for assuming accountability? Let’s take a look today and see if there is anything we can apply to our own lives or convey to our teams:

  • “It’s nobody’s fault” – One of the first things that people tend to do when things go wrong is to say that it was unavoidable… nobody is to blame. Or, worse yet, it was his/her fault. The problem with this approach is that when we think something is unavoidable, we tend to believe that there is nothing we can do in the future to avoid a similar problem. When no one is to blame – when we turn away from the real cause for the problem – the problem will likely recur over and over. Or, when we blame others, we risk ruining relationships and damaging future opportunities to collaborate. Here is what the song says about this approach:

Nibblin’ on sponge cake,
Watchin’ the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin’ my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp-
They’re beginnin’ to boil.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know it’s nobody’s fault.

  • “It could be my fault” – One step of progress in this accountability model is to accept the possibility that you could have some of the blame or responsibility for the issue. Realizing that you at least share the responsibility is an admission that you at least had a role in the outcome. When you begin accepting some remnant of responsibility, you are admitting that there is some action you might have taken that could have resulted in a better result. Now,  you have something to work on before this occurs again. Let’s see what Jimmy Buffet says about this:

Don’t know the reason,
Stayed here all season
With nothing to show but this brand new tattoo.
But it’s a real beauty,
A Mexican cutie, how it got here
I haven’t a clue.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
Now I think, – hell it could be my fault.

  • “I know it’s my own fault” – Ultimately, assuming full responsibility for events under your direct control is the definition of accountability. And, when you do, you have the opportunity to both learn from your mistakes and identify actions that might prevent a recurrence of the problem. Many individuals never get to this point of maturity. Instead, they become caught in the cycle of either blaming others or deflecting their role in the outcome (unless it was all positive, of course) and running from the event as fast as possible. Thus, the cycle will soon repeat. We see in the song that the singer eventually accepts responsibility for his fate.

I blew out my flip flop,
Stepped on a pop top;
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.
But there’s booze in the blender,
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know, it’s my own darn fault.
Yes, and some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, And I know it’s my own darn fault

Accountability is an important concept that parents often fail to teach their children. Too many parents, these days, believe that their children can do no wrong and jump to the conclusion that any issue with their kids is the fault of someone else (teachers, coaches, etc.). This teaches just the opposite of accountability… this teaches the art of blaming others. This teaches kids to be victims. We need to help others understand that we must all be willing to give an accounting for our actions, whether good or bad. There is always someone that we must answer to. As leaders, we model this well when we step up and accept responsibility for decisions we make.

Today is a good day to consider how we fit into the Margaritaville accountability model. Are we quick to blame others or believe that no one is to blame for anything that goes wrong? Do we accept that we have some responsibility, but we alone could not be totally responsible? Or, do we willingly accept our share of the responsibility for our decisions and actions? Maturing to the point of appropriate accountability will serve us well in any situation we find ourselves.

Remember, today could be our best day yet!

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