Accountability–Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Earlier this week I was reading a post by Ron Ashkenas titled Why Accountability Is So Muddled, and How to Un-Muddle It. The post outlines 3 common reasons organizations have trouble with accountability, namely:

  • complexity of an organizations structure
  • constantly evolving work processes
  • people work hard to avoid it

The post was probably written with larger companies in mind, but small businesses also face many of these same challenges. When working as a marketing coach, I often see accountability muddled in small business for a fourth reason – confusion over roles and responsibilities in accountability.

Who is Responsible for Accountability

I find that accountability is often viewed as something one person does to another – you are my coach, so you will hold me accountable.

In my experience (on both sides of the accountability coin), accountability programs work best when one person agrees to be accountable to the other.

This may be a subtle difference, but I believe it is key. Your accountability partner cannot force you to stop a behavior or start a new one. Your accountability can provide encouragement, give advice, and connect you to new resources. But it’s not even their responsibility to check up on you (although most will) – it is your responsibility to report to them.

Setting Your Accountability Program Up For Success

Now that you have decided to be accountable to another person, here are some other tips to help you be successful in your accountability partnership:

Define what success looks like before you begin. Most people work with an accountability partner when they are either trying to develop a new habit, break a bad habit, or achieve a significant goal. What is your goal? How will your life be different when you achieve your goal? How will you feel? How will achieving this goal effect your family and friends?

Take some time to write out what your life will look like when you achieve success and share that with your accountability partner.

Define your reward – how will you celebrate when you achieve your goal? Will you reward yourself with a gift? Take a loved one out for a special dinner?

Define the consequences – what do you agree to do if you don’t follow through on the behaviors you committed to performing? This is not the same as achieving your goal (see below). I know several people who agree to make a $100 or more donation to the charity of their accountability partners choice if they break their commitments.

Focus on behaviors rather than results – it is important to focus on behaviors that you can control rather than outcomes which you can only influence. For example, if I am in sales, I cannot force (control) someone to buy from me, but I can control my behaviors that are likely to lead to more sales, i.e. networking, asking for referrals, getting training to improve my selling skills, etc.

What are your favorite accountability tips?

Leave a Reply