What is true accountability?


Studies shows that the way you commit to a goal has an immense affect on your likelihood of reaching it.

Your likelihood of completing your goal if...

  • You have an idea or a goal: 10%

  • You consciously decide you will do it: 25%

  • You decide when you will do it: 40%

  • You plan how you will do it: 50%

  • You commit to someone you will do it: 65%

  • You have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to: 95%

(Source: ATD)

Pay attention to those last two bullets.

You are most likely to follow through when other people are involved in holding you accountable.

So what does it mean to "be held accountable"? Sounds threatening, doesn't it? We use those words when we talk about corrupt politicians and evil corporations. As a kid, I learned that being held accountable meant "getting in trouble".

Accountability has a shaming quality to it. And that’s a shame. Because accountability has nothing to do with punishment.

Accountability is simply taking account of what happened.

It means simply asking yourself "What happened?"

  • What did I do?

  • What didn't I do?

  • What got in the way?

Accountability is about cultivating awareness of your actions and choices, so you can make different choices next time.

Your ability to become aware of yourself when working towards your goal is what creates accountability.

So why is it so much more effective when others are involved in our accountability?

Because when we need to "report out" to someone else, we naturally become more aware of what we're doing. We look at ourselves through an external gaze, which gets us out of our heads and into action.

If you think you shouldn't need other people to motivate you, think again. Don't buy into Western culture's individualist dogma.

Our relationships are our most powerful resource. It's what makes us human.

We've been motivated by our relationships since we were born and needed our parents' love to survive.

So if you're serious about achieving your goals, start asking your family, friends, and colleagues to be your accountability buddies TODAY.

Here's how:

  • Ask a friend if they'd be willing to be your accountability buddy.

  • Tell them the goal you're trying to reach and WHY it's important to you.

  • Propose a structure to the frequency and mode you'll check in with each other (I recommend weekly text or email updates).

  • Agree on how you'd like the friend to respond when you don't do the tasks you committed to (NO SHAMING - focus on brainstorming new ideas and strategies for next time).

  • Agree on how you'll celebrate together when you've achieved your goal.

  • Every few months, check in about how the system is going and make adjustments as needed.

True accountability isn’t naggy or punitive. It’s incredibly exciting and mutually beneficial. Inspired action is infectious. And before long, your friend will start to work towards their goals, too.

Be a role model. Be a leader. Be accountable.

Eddie Shieh, PCC, MFA