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What Does it Mean to be Held Accountable?

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

Business man in a blue business suit

Accountability can be learned if you are willing enough

Accountability means being answerable for your actions and decisions. If you were made responsible for something or you yourself promised to achieve certain outcomes, you can be held accountable for them. Accountability isn’t necessarily a disciplinary measure but a virtue that ensures operational efficiency by keeping things on track. To my mind accountability simply means; doing the things you said you were going to do, and getting your team to do the same.

The unique fact about accountability is that nobody, neither your superiors nor your subordinates, can force you to be accountable. It’s something that comes from within, unless you seek an accountability partner (buddy). Someone you can meet with on a regular who will review what’s been completed, set timelines on what needs to be done and can provide support, counsel and advice along the way including calling you out when it’s needed. I’ll talk more about your partner (buddy) later on in this post.

That being said, if you want to be a successful professional in your industry, you can always learn it by holding yourself accountable through different methods.

Many employees, leaders and even managers have asked me how they can make themselves more accountable. Here’s the advice that I give them:


10 Actions to Cultivate Accountability

Seek Feedback from Your Superior

If you’re working as a subordinate and there’s a boss you report to, you can always reach out to them and ask for detail-oriented feedback regarding your work. It won’t only help you understand your weaknesses and strengths but will turn you into a conscious and mindful professional.

By actively searching for feedback, you actually gain experience in a quick time. There are things you can simply learn by asking which might’ve taken months or even years to figure out by yourself.

Seek Feedback from Your Peers

Everyone isn’t good at everything. Everyone isn’t bad at everything. Each individual has something they’re great at and then something they’re not so great at. Searching for feedback from your own peers means you can improve in areas where you’re not as good as them. Moreover, you can also learn about your personality traits and work on yourself to become a better professional.

Getting Suggestions from Your Subordinates

Even if you are working as a team leader or a manager, you always have some room for improvement. You can seek suggestions and feedback from your subordinates and find out what they think. Ensure that they know they won’t be penalised for providing their candid opinions. Many times employees say everything is right because they’re wary of consequences.

Put All the Feedback into Practice

Whatever you have learned from different sources won’t have any value unless you start to incorporate the feedback into your work. Effective and timely implementation will see a marked improvement in your work and put you in a position to become a better and more efficient performer.

Judge Your Work Honestly

Once you’ve implemented the feedback, evaluate your own work like you would evaluate someone else’s. Don’t beat yourself up for minor mistakes but don’t be too lenient either. Identify the mistakes you have made and ensure they are corrected. Note that you won’t be able to implement all the feedback right away and might repeat certain mistakes. But that’s just the part of your learning process.

Create a Plan & Prioritise Your Tasks

You can’t hold yourself accountable unless you know what you are supposed to do and by when you are supposed to do it. That’s why it’s imperative that you create a comprehensive plan and break it down into smaller objectives along with deadlines. This way you’ll be in a better position to keep a check on your own performance.

Moreover, prioritise your objectives according to their urgency and importance. Sometimes, you can end up wasting hours on something that wasn’t that important, to begin with. Accountability also means accountability of how you spend your time. Prioritisation of tasks will help you achieve that.

Find an Accountability Partner (Buddy)

One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable is by finding an accountability partner. Another responsible person who is willing to keep you honest and straight. Someone who can keep checking in from time to time and ensure you’re on the right track. The sense of being answerable to someone will ensure you accomplish your objectives within the given deadlines.

Final Word

Accountability is critical to your success and most of us aren’t born with this virtue. But the great news is that accountability can be learned in a wide variety of ways. From seeking feedback on your work through different sources to creating a prioritised plan to finding an accountability partner, you have various ways to keep yourself honest and ensure you deliver on your promises.

A study* in the US 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.

After reading this, how likely are you to achieve your; goals, promises, obligations and commitments alone? Which raises the all-important question, are you willing to do it?