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How Do You Explain Accountability? Part 1

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

Home » Accountability principles » How Do You Explain Accountability? Part 1
Writing about accountability

What is Accountability?

Setting a clear definition of accountability and what it means for individuals in terms of concrete actions and thoughts is necessary to ensure that people get the right idea when they set out to achieve accountability in every sphere of their life.

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What Is Meant By Accountability?

For me accountability has always been personal, so for me accountability means that “you do what you say you’re going to do, and you get your team to do the same”. Accountability is holding yourself responsible for your decisions and actions and defining clearly what the outcomes of these thoughts and actions are going to be. In this way, accountability means to ensure that your thoughts and actions are always directed towards a goal that includes the benefit of everyone around you.

Holding oneself responsible and accountable for our decisions and actions first begins by understanding that we are answerable to others in many matters. If an effort has any impact at all on others and even on ourselves, then we must realize that each decision and action sets off a series of events for which we must hold ourselves responsible and answerable.

What Does It Help Us Achieve?

Incorporating accountability in our daily life means cultivating a habit of forethought and mindfulness, which brings us awareness of the results and effects of our actions at every moment.

In a workplace or business setting, this means understanding that we are responsible for delivering the best results for any specific task and knowing that our work no doubt affects the working of others as well. Performing poorly, shirking responsibility, and putting the blame on others are actions that undermine entirely one’s sense of accountability.

Self-Accountability First!

Similarly, understanding that you are responsible for your well-being and benefit is another act of self-accountability. Questioning one’s motives and acting carefully, even in matters of personal importance, drive out brains to cultivate a habit of always thinking positively and of searching for ways to achieve the best possible outcome in every situation.

Personal accountability at home or the workplace is the most critical quality that leads to the development of leadership capabilities and habits in each of us. Taking the lead in matters, thinking about the positive effects of our actions on ourselves and those around us, and always delivering the best we can, these are the qualities of a true leader, and they all emerge from the simple act of training ourselves to achieve accountability of ourselves and others at all times.

Holding Others Responsible

Holding others accountable for their actions is also essential, as it instills on everyone the fact that their actions have results that affect others too. People who fail to provide accountability for their actions are always trying to run away from responsibility and always give their least effort. In any team situation, such individuals undermine not only their progress but also the progress of the whole team and organization as they make it unduly difficult for everyone to achieve their goals.

In this situation, it is up to us, as accountable individuals, to take up the leadership role and enforce accountability, answerability, and responsibility on every individual of the team, to make sure that everyone can work in harmony towards a single constructive goal, rather than to fight over who did what.

We Are Responsible For Our Success

Accountability can not be delegated, and it can not be avoided. It is the way by which we can assess our progress and the progress of our partners and teams. It is the one small habit that can completely change one’s way of life, leading to more and more positivity in our thoughts, actions, and decisions. Not only does it give us a clear path towards achieving our goals, but also provides us with the strength to reel back from setbacks, to gather and assess ourselves after every failure, and to return to our path with better motivation and knowledge.

You can’t do it alone

A study* in the USA was undertaken and found out that the probability of completing your 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.

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

Find an accountability partner (a buddy)

1) Don’t use a friend or family member.

This never works and always ends badly. There are too many patterns to deal with, too much emotional involvement, and in general, they aren’t committed to you changing. Start with someone new who’s committed to change as well and who can have the tough discussions with you, to call you out when it’s needed. And, it will be needed.

2) Choose someone working on the same or similar goal.

The sad truth is that you just won’t care as much about what the other person is working on if it isn’t related to what you’re doing. You want to be invested in what they’re doing. Working with someone who’s working towards something similar to you encourages healthy, friendly competition and gives you a frame of reference.

3) Plan and Set

  • A regular time to connect
  • How you’ll connect
  • Put it in your calendar
  • Treat it as fixed, this is business time not a social interaction or sorts.

Ideally, you have a fixed and regular appointment so you get used to it, but if it’s not planned and not in your calendar, it’s not going to happen. You think it will, but it won’t. Treat that time as an appointment with someone that can’t be changed. Once you start changing meeting times or it’s not planned, say goodbye to the partnership and to your habit.

4) If your buddy starts to disappear or misses a scheduled time more than once – politely end the partnership.

Most accountability partnerships don’t last because someone flakes out. (That’s why most people need an accountability partner – to stop flaking out – but c’est la vie.) Once one person stops communicating and it’s acceptable, then the other person does; then everyone pretends they’re doing accountability and you end up just wasting your time. Time is precious. Especially if you’re working on the things that are important to you. *You* need to take responsibility and either email or say, “Thanks so much for agreeing to work together, but unfortunately this isn’t working out for me, so I need to end the partnership.”  Then you can find someone else who is more compatible.

5) Choose One Thing to work on.

I can’t tell you how many people want to work on everything all at once and they fail. I’m guilty of this too (thank you ADHD), but it’s a fail. If you’re looking to build sustainable habits, choose one habit at a time.

You can choose one habit one week, and another the next week, but people who say, “I want to work out three times this week, read 4 hours a day, cook dinner for myself and my friend etc. etc”, will fail. It’s a bad use of an accountability partner, because no one wants to hear a litany of things you did or didn’t do. (“So today, I did work out but only for 20 minutes, but I didn’t read; I did walk the dog, but I didn’t make dinner,” etc. That will not be a long-lasting partnership). There’s nothing helpful you or the partner can do.

Choose one activity: i.e. This week I will write my novel for at least 15 minutes three times. (smaller is even better – i.e. 1, 5 or 10 minutes for things that are difficult for us). Then when you communicate, you either did or didn’t do it, and can look at why you did or didn’t do that one task without over thinking it. That’s the only way you’ll get clarity.

6) Make your habit *tiny.*

Based on the tiny habits technique make your activity tiny so you can win. Winning is everything when building habits.

Every time you fail to do your habit, you reinforce a pattern of a negative reinforcement. If you already had resistance to it, you reinforce that resistance, and increase it. So, the next time you try to do it, you have even more resistance to it. So, when you create activities that are difficult to do, you’re actually harming yourself.

To decrease the resistance make it incredibly easy and a sure win. Instead of doing 50 pushups five days a week, do One push up. (Anything more is purely extra credit!) Then the next week do two.

7) Communication: Base all your communication around positive reinforcement.

This doesn’t mean everyone is wonderful and everything is good. This means every step in the right direction towards your goals should be rewarded.

Thought about going to the gym today? = Good job! Started walking towards the door to the gym? = Great work!

If you have resistance towards your goal, even thinking about your habit counts and should be reinforced. Then you can build on that. We need that positive reinforcement for the things that are difficult.

(Example: In Navy Seal mental toughness books, they all mention that Seals get through basic training not by thinking of the 5 days and nights they go without sleep. They think of that very next step, that very next minute, then the next one, and the next one, until they’ve reached that height, they didn’t even know they could get to.”)

8) Set a length of time for your check-ins.

If you use the phone or Zoom or some sort of voice or video check in system set a *firm* time frame for the conversation: say 30-minutes, or whatever you think you need. Treat it as a deadline so you convey what you need within that time frame.  It’s interesting how when setting appointments between two people we feel comfortable setting start times, but less so setting end times. There’s a psychological component of what the length of time says about how you think about the person etc, but for now, as you set up the rules for your partnership, set a time frame up at the beginning.

9) Adjust accordingly.

All of these elements should be adjusted to suit your needs as you work together. If you connect daily, perhaps you discover you only need to connect twice a week. if you speak for ten minutes a day, maybe you realize you only need five. See what’s working for *you*, and if each partner is responsible for their own needs and articulates them clearly – you’ll be well on your way to a successful partnership and greater clarity in your life.

10) Remember: Nothing is permanent.

You can always change your plans, your goals, and even your partner if you find they are not working for you. This process is about self-growth, learning what inspires you and gives you energy to keep moving forward. In the end you want to make sure you are gaining something significant from the process of working towards your goals.


Accountability ensures that we present a pro-active approach towards life and helps us build trust within ourselves and with others. In conclusion, accountability not only teaches us how to become a better person for ourselves but also helps us bring positivity and benefits to those around us. It is the best way to bring management to our daily lives by assessing the impact of our thoughts, decisions, and actions upon ourselves and everyone else and by understanding that we are answerable and responsible for our deeds.

You can’t do this alone. To be truly accountable, it requires the involvement of an accountability buddy, so go find yourself one ASAP, they will make a world of difference and increase your probability of you attaining your goal to a massive 95%, now that’s game changing.