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Accountability and Responsibility

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

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Accountability and Responsibility

Accountability vs Responsibility

We’ve all heard about the importance of accountability and responsibility in our life. But do you really understand them? Sometimes these terms are confused and used interchangeably. Even though it may not seem important to differentiate between the two. Understanding the differences between them is vital for bringing more awareness and mindfulness into our lives.

This short explanation will show you the difference between accountability and responsibility. Learn how each one can benefit our lives and work positively for you.

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What is Accountability?

So, what is the meaning of Accountability?

The business dictionary states the meaning of ‘accountability’ is;

The obligation of an individual or organisation to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.

To me in a practical sense and putting my entrepreneurial hat on, accountability simply means. “Doing the things you say you are going to do by the due date”, and “getting your team to do the same”.

Accountability is both a concept and an action. It is the concept of realization that each of our thoughts and actions influence ourselves and those around us. And also knowing that we are answerable to ourselves and to others for what we do.

Accountability is the act of understanding our thoughts and actions. Changing our behaviour to bring the most positivity to our life. It incorporates mindfulness, conscious awareness, and acceptance into one concept. A concept that can be quickly learned and applied to our lives. It’s the understanding that we are directly answerable for our actions. That our actions can and should be controlled to bring positivity by focusing on our goals and objectives. Keeping our mind firmly aware and conscious of thoughts and surroundings in the present

What is Responsibility?

Responsibility is the concept that we are tasked with and answerable for the completion or execution of an action. It is a concept that defines our duties in life and how we must be held answerable for their completion. At the same time, responsibility is also the opposite of accountability and the same as accountability, depending on the situation.

Responsibility is the acceptance of our duties and actions. Actions we must perform paired with an understanding of the results we must achieve through those actions. Furthermore, it defines our ultimate goals and objectives and the reason behind choosing these aims related to how they benefit us in our life.

The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

Responsibility dictates what actions we must do while accountability dictates how we must do it. Responsibility tells us that we are answerable for the completion of a task. In contrast, accountability tells us that we are answerable for the results of a task or action after completion. So, both concepts define the beginning and endpoint of a spectrum. They are both involved in dictating and teaching us what we must do to achieve our goals and how we must do it.

‘Accountability’ is a powerful word, yet most don’t know what it means.

Having worked with plenty of entrepreneurial businesses owners, executives and teams there’s one topic that is always difficult to discuss, that being the A-word ‘accountability’. Not from me, accountability coaching is what I do…

I’m keen to talk about the devil in the room and to also call them out when they need it. However, many people don’t understand what accountability is, why it’s important, or where it starts.

Yes, they understand accountability is important, but don’t know how to create a culture of accountability so they just hope it will happen. HOPE is not a strategy that you’ll read in any of the Simon Sinek, Richard Branson, Andrew Griffiths or Daniel Priestley business books!

When we hear the A-word, some shudder at the thought because what we do know is that we must also ‘step up’ and be responsible for something.

The bottom line is, delivering on a promise or honouring a commitment made to others or to ourselves and making sure it gets done. You see, there is a difference between Accountability and Responsibility, they’re cousins, but not the same.

Let me explain. You are responsible for things and you’re accountable to people.

It’s essential that if we want to get stuff done we will need a person with whom we can work, someone in a central role to hold you to account. To find this person, they need to have a proven track record of being able to get things done themselves. I’ve always found: Accountability increases Activity, Activity increases Opportunity

A study* in the USA was undertaken and found out that the probability of completing a goal is:

  • 10% – If you have an actual idea or goal.
  • 25% – If you consciously decide you will do it.
  • 40% – If you decide when you will do it.
  • 50% – If you plan how you will do it.
  • 65% – If you commit to someone, you will do it.
  • 95% – If you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to.

So, after reading this, how likely are you to achieve your; goals, promises, obligations and commitments alone?

Why It Is Important to Understand the Difference

Understanding this difference is essential for us to differentiate where we stand in terms of achieving our goals and objectives. While the concept of responsibility defines our duties to ourselves and others. The concept of accountability defines that we must remain answerable to our actions upon the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of our responsibility.

It can be better said that the timeline of any thought or action begins with us understanding and accepting our responsibilities. Then, it ends with us being accountable for the activities we also performed for the fulfillment of our obligation.

Responsibility is the ends we must meet, and accountability is how we must achieve these ends.

Why it is important to achieve both Responsibility and Accountability?

Finally, incorporating both accountability and responsibility in daily life is vital. It’s vital for building awareness of ourselves and our thoughts and understanding. It’s also vital for how and why we perform our actions and the emotions and feelings we encounter along the way. Furthermore, both accountability and responsibility teach us how to bring acceptance, gratitude, and mindfulness into our lives. Doing this in a positive way to benefit ourselves and others both in the short-term and the long-term. You can’t buy happiness, but getting stuff done is pretty much the same thing.