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The Oz Principle by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman.
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When things feel out of your control, when you’re dissatisfied with your life or work but don’t know how to fix it, it’s easy to give up, believing there’s no point in trying if you can’t change anything.

But you have more power to create change than you think. In The Oz Principle, the authors use the classic story of The Wizard of Oz to teach people—from individuals seeking to improve their personal lives to company leaders trying to push their teams to new heights—how to get what they want. The lesson of Dorothy’s quest is:

  • No one is going to give you the things you want or need. But you have the power to achieve them yourself—as long as you don’t get stuck in a victim mindset.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her companions travel the Yellow Brick Road in search of the Wizard. Each seeks something they believe the Wizard can provide: a way back home, courage, a heart, or a brain. To their dismay, they learn the Wizard is a fraud; there’s not a simple, magical solution to their problems. But it turns out they didn’t need the Wizard—they already had what they’d wished for.

The authors explain how to journey, like Dorothy, from a mindset of victimism to one of accountability. The Oz Principle is: To reach your goals, take initiative and assume accountability for your circumstances and your future.

(Shortform note: Viewing The Wizard of Oz as a tale about the journey from victimism to accountability isn’t the only, or even the most common, interpretation of this classic. Since its publication, both book and movie have inspired numerous allegorical interpretations. The most popular may be that Baum’s book is a political allegory for early 20th-century America.)

Authors Roger Connors and Tom Smith are founders of the consulting firm Partners in Leadership. They've worked with numerous businesses to improve cultures and practices around accountability. They argue that many of the most common problems that plague companies—low productivity, slow innovation, and poor morale—can be solved. But there aren’t any tricks or shortcuts. Working through those problems requires people to hold themselves accountable, first individually and then companywide.

Accountability is the bridge or behavior that moves you from victimism and failure to success. Thus, succeeding through accountability is the essence of “the Oz Principle.” (Shortform note: While many experts focus on skill, luck, and determination as the keys to success, accountability is often an underrated factor. However, accountability is arguably more important than these characteristics. In fact, the authors of The 4 Disciplines of Execution cite accountability as one of four essentials of successful execution (the others are focus, leverage, and engagement). Accountability in this formula takes the form of weekly sessions in which you review and account for your progress toward your goals.)

After introducing the problems posed by the victim mentality and explaining the difference between victim behaviors and accountability, The Oz Principle outlines four steps to becoming accountable and creating a culture of accountability in your organization: facing facts, admitting your role, taking responsibility, and taking action.

(Shortform note: Management literature often defines accountability as managers setting clear performance standards and holding employees to them—this five-step prescription is an example: Have difficult performance conversations, address poor performance as soon as possible, consider the employee’s feelings, set measurable goals, and follow up. However, The Oz Principle’s authors take a broader, transformative view of accountability encompassing personal and professional behavior by employees and leaders alike.)

Understand the Victim Mentality

Before we discuss the steps to accountability in detail, it’s important to explain what being a “victim” means in the context of “the Oz Principle” and what the consequences of victimhood are. The victim mentality encompasses a variety of behaviors and thought patterns that keep you trapped, disempowered, and unable to realize your potential. They prevent you from taking advantage of opportunities to learn and grow.

The authors explain that victim behaviors are usually passive and/or selfish. (Shortform note: The essence of both is that they’re reactive, in contrast to accountability, which is proactive.)

You may be acting from a victim mentality without being aware of it. Here are the common passive and/or selfish behaviors indicating you’re stuck:

  • Deflecting responsibility (making excuses, blaming others, or waiting for someone else to act.)
  • Rejecting opportunities to improve (ignoring feedback and being defensive)
  • Being pessimistic and negative (complaining without offering solutions)
  • Being lazy (prioritizing easy or short-term solutions over long-term ones, or glossing over problems so you look like you’re in control)

(Shortform note: These behaviors are basically opposites of the authors’ four steps to accountability: face facts, admit your role, take responsibility for solving the problem, and take action.)

The Oz Principle’s authors note that to a point, victim behaviors are understandable—in fact, they can be comforting, like a security blanket, because you’re avoiding the risks of responsibility. But they prevent you from maximizing your potential and creating a fulfilling life. By recognizing these behaviors in yourself, you can begin to let...

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The Oz Principle Summary The Oz Principle Guide Shortform Introduction

Many people fail to own their actions and results, especially at work, where it’s easy to shift blame and succumb to a victim mentality. But in The Oz Principle, authors Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman use the story of The Wizard of Oz to show how being accountable for your successes and challenges is the key to improving results on both an individual and organizational level.

About the Authors

Roger Connors and Tom Smith are the founders of the consulting firm Partners in Leadership. They've worked with numerous companies to improve cultures and practices around accountability, and The Oz Principle contains many anecdotes about how their clients overcame workplace issues. They co-authored two other New York Times bestselling management books: How Did That Happen? and Change the Culture, Change the Game.

The third author, Craig Hickman, is a prolific writer...

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The Oz Principle Summary The Oz Principle Guide Part 1 | Chapters 1-3: Accountability Is the Key to Achieving Your Goals

The Oz Principle opens with a big-picture view of the core ideas, which essentially boil down to this: You have the power to make your life better, even when you may think that you don’t. From there, we’ll discuss how a victim mentality might be holding you back and how accepting the authors’ definition of accountability instead can empower you.

What Is the Oz Principle?

The authors use the story of The Wizard of Oz to teach people—from individuals seeking to improve their personal lives to company leaders trying to push their teams to new heights—how to get what they want. The lesson from The Wizard of Oz is:

  • No one is going to give you the things you want or need. But you have the power to achieve them yourself—as long as you don’t get stuck in a victim mindset.

The Oz Principle lays out a journey from a mindset of victimism to one of accountability. The authors argue that the most common problems that plague companies—low productivity, slow innovation, and poor morale—can be solved. But there aren’t any tricks or shortcuts. Working through those problems requires people to take responsibility and hold themselves accountable, individually and then...

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Shortform Exercise: Build a Better Life, One Step at a Time

Before you can learn to hold yourself accountable, take a moment to identify areas of your life that could use improvement. Chances are, there are problems you’ve yet to acknowledge or opportunities to be more proactive than you’ve been in the past.


What is your least favorite part of your job, and why?

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The Oz Principle Summary The Oz Principle Guide Part 2 | Chapters 4-5: Understand the Problem and Your Role

After defining accountability, the authors explain how to practice accountability in your daily life by following four steps that constitute a journey like Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz. The first steps are:

  • Step 1: Face facts, or evaluate problems without flinching from difficult realities.
  • Step 2: Admit your role by being honest about how your actions affected the problem

Chapters 4-5 discuss the importance of acknowledging the problem and figuring out the root causes, then examining how your actions (or inaction) played a role—because even if the situation was caused by forces out of your control, you’ll likely be able to identify a few things you could’ve done differently concerning the things you could control.

Step 1: Face Facts

You can't have accountability if you don't face the facts of a situation—that is, if you don’t confront reality. The authors contend that facing facts or reality entails dealing with three elements:

1. Changes in Your Surroundings

People often try to carry on as usual when circumstances have changed. It’s irrational, but it’s something we’re all prone to doing. Don’t get stuck in that rut; face the problem and think...

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Shortform Exercise: Practice Owning Your Problems

To hold yourself accountable, you have to become comfortable examining the part you play (through action or inaction) in getting into or remaining in negative situations.


Think about someone you don’t get along with. This could be a person who’s in your life right now (a co-worker, a relative, a roommate) or someone you used to know but no longer have a relationship with. Why don’t you get along with them?

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The Oz Principle Summary The Oz Principle Guide Chapters 6-7: Come Up With a Solution and Follow Through

After facing facts and admitting your role in the problem, The Oz Principle’s next two accountability steps are:

  • Step 3: Taking charge of the problem (coming up with effective solutions)
  • Step 4: Taking action to solve the problem (following through on the solutions)

Step 3: Take Responsibility for Solving the Problem

Even when you recognize a problem, you may be inclined to step aside and let someone else take care of it. But you should want to be the problem-solver, according to the authors of The Oz Principle, because being a problem-solver comes with benefits that make it worth the effort:

  • Solving a problem means averting catastrophes and implementing better ways of doing things. It leaves you better off in the long run.
  • Problem-solvers are needed. People rely on them, think well of them, and entrust them with more responsibility.
  • By becoming a problem-solver, you work your creative muscles and engage in active learning. You don’t just improve an immediate situation; you make yourself better, too.

(Shortform note: Being a problem-solver also may be important to your career; it’s [a key soft skill in the knowledge...

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Shortform Exercise: Anticipate Obstacles

Remember the exercise in which you reflected on your least favorite part of your job? Let’s return to that. You’ll use the ideas you came up with already and prepare yourself to follow through on those plans.


You listed three actions that you could take to either improve that negative aspect of your job or lessen the amount of time you’d need to spend on it. For each of those actions, list one obstacle that might prevent you from seeing it through.

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The Oz Principle Summary The Oz Principle Guide Part 3 | Chapters 8-9: Accountability in Organizations

So far, we’ve focused mostly on individual accountability. The final chapters shift to a big-picture view of accountability as a group endeavor. The authors explain how leaders can implement a mindset of accountability throughout their organization by modeling positive behaviors, teaching others how to hold themselves accountable, monitoring their progress, and ultimately reinforcing cultural changes so that they last.

Be Accountable as a Team

The Oz Principle cites several benefits from creating an organizational culture of accountability:

  • You’ll encourage initiative, creativity, and camaraderie among your team.
  • You’ll anticipate problems before they arise; when they do arise, they’ll get solved faster.
  • You’ll avoid costly disasters, saving time and money.
  • People will feel more invested in their work because they’re taking greater ownership of it—they’re not just following orders.

(Shortform note: Other benefits of an organizational culture of accountability that are just as important, or even more important, include: creating and...

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The Oz Principle Summary The Oz Principle Guide Chapter 10: Solving Common Problems With Accountability

Although the accountability strategies in The Oz Principle seem like common sense, they're challenging to implement. Instead of making the effort, many organizations waste time on trendy management and leadership programs that don’t effect lasting change.

In the final chapter, the authors highlight the most common and most harmful issues they’ve observed in organizations. Resolving them requires time, resources, and change; but to leave them unresolved is to ensure that your company never achieves its full potential.

We’ll group these issues into three categories: employee development, communication, and individual motivation.

1. Employee Development

For the organization to grow, your people have to grow. Sometimes that growth can happen organically—often, though, it comes only as the result of deliberate effort.

Problem: Many companies don’t invest time and resources in developing their employees' skills. In turn, employees do the bare minimum because they're not motivated to improve and their progress is not being monitored.

Accountability Solution: In an accountability culture, it’s on leaders to provide feedback. Then, it's on the employees to act...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Shortform Introduction
  • Part 1 | Chapters 1-3: Accountability Is the Key to Achieving Your Goals
  • Exercise: Build a Better Life, One Step at a Time
  • Part 2 | Chapters 4-5: Understand the Problem and Your Role
  • Exercise: Practice Owning Your Problems
  • Chapters 6-7: Come Up With a Solution and Follow Through
  • Exercise: Anticipate Obstacles
  • Part 3 | Chapters 8-9: Accountability in Organizations
  • Chapter 10: Solving Common Problems With Accountability