The Missing Link: Accountability

According to, accountability is "the state of being accountable." Feels a little lazy, no? I think we can do better than that.

Accountability (Noun): The act of holding yourself or others responsible for meeting certain standards through leadership, maturity, self-esteem and action. Accountability is an influential piece of the puzzle when it comes to success as an individual, company or team. Without it, things become unorganized, quality suffers or you simply do not get anything accomplished.

For anyone looking to achieve anything from weight loss, a promotion, remodeling a house or something else, holding yourself to a high standard and being honest might be the most important thing you can do in pursuit of your goals. Master accountability, master your goals.

The Different Kinds of Accountability

Not all accountability is created equal. There are two distinctly different forms of accountability: accountability for you and for others. Both are equally important and even synergize with one another throughout life, but are extremely different in their demands.

Self-accountability is all about you and only you. With self-accountability, it's okay to be a little selfish sometimes. Holding yourself accountable for the future benefits of your current actions is not a bad thing; in fact, it should be empowering. Even if you’re a person who constantly pours into others and puts yourself last, you need to make sure that you aren’t pouring from an empty cup. Taking care of your own needs is part of what makes you able to take care of others.

Self-accountability can involve daily habits, routines and goals that revolve around your health and wellness, performance at work, family, friends and personal growth. The purpose of holding yourself accountable is to uphold your own standards so you have a high quality of life.

On the other hand, holding others accountable can also benefit you, but, overall, it’s generally for the well-being of those around you. Seeing other people in your circle doing well is rewarding and even more fulfilling when you know you helped play a role in their success.

Part of being a great teammate, co-worker or partner is making sure that you are pushing others to set the same high standards that you hold for yourself. Great leaders create other leaders by holding those around them accountable; poor leading creates followers.

Benefits of Accountability

So, how can accountability positively impact your life? There are five massive benefits that span through many facets of life and truly make accountability such an important trait to have.

To start, holding yourself or others to a certain standard is key to staying engaged with your goals. How many times have you started something and quit? For most, they can list at least a few instances where they worked toward something and never reached the finish line. For me, it was trying to learn a language, the time I tried to write a book, all the times I dropped college courses five weeks into the semester. The list goes on and on. In many cases, failures occur when you're not holding yourself accountable to the task at hand. No other excuses can be made.

Accountability is also a powerful tool in validating your purpose. When things are not a true priority to you, it’s obvious. You won’t seek out resources to learn the new language, call upon a mentor and write countless drafts of the book or stay in the class. If it’s important to you, though, you’ll make time. Have a true purpose driving your goals leads to involuntary self-discipline because you're working toward something you truly care about, which is a powerful motivator.

The next two benefits go hand-in-hand because they can provide some harsh reality checks. When you keep yourself accountable, or have others on your team do it, you get some honest feedback opportunities. Because of that feedback, you have a chance to develop your character based on your response. Giving and getting honest feedback is a scary thing that nobody wants to do, but the ones that take that feedback into consideration and use it to improve are the ones that truly find success.

Lastly, from an organizational standpoint, accountability ensures your time and relationship management are operating at peak performance. When you work on deadlines, provide deadlines for others and communicate effectively, progress is made and those small victories eventually add up to one giant accomplishment.

Are You Accountable to You?

Want to know a dirty little secret? Improving all of this stuff is simple. Holding yourself and/or others more accountable is free and doesn’t require anything but a little effort.

1. Ask for feedback

If you want to improve anything, this is always my first stop. If you’re a leader in any way, ask your team: "How can I be a better leader for you?" If you’re looking to hold yourself more accountable, ask yourself, "Are my actions in line with my goals." Answer this with honesty. If you’re asking, the answer is usually no. Take that feedback as constructive, go to the drawing board to identify any shortcomings or areas for improvement and start making changes that will get you closer to that which you desire.

2. Nurture all relationships

Don’t be the person who only calls someone when you need something or when it benefits you. Instead, nurture your network at all times. Keep in touch with people just for the sake of keeping in touch. Show people that you have their best interest in mind. Give more than you receive. This is a big part of becoming a better leader and can help you stay accountable as you put good energy out into the world. Trust me, it will come back your way in time.

3. Keep a journal

What gets measured gets managed, and this is especially true with your time and projects. Keep a journal or some form of documented schedule so you can have records of your performance. If it’s in the gym, follow a program and journal your performance. If it’s in the office, keep a calendar of due dates, meetings and performance analysis. If it’s for your own personal happiness, keep notes on how your days went and why.

Don’t just keep the data sitting in a drawer, either. Every so often, pull it out, analyze it and focus on ways you can use the not-so-good stuff to get one percent better each day.

4. Set SMART Goals

Lastly, make sure you set SMART goals. This goal-setting strategy weeds out things that are going to waste your time and end in frustration, and forces you to think about the bigger picture and the "how" that leads you from your starting point to the finish line. Having your goals outlined with specifics encourages you to be realistic about what's achievable and, thus, makes it easier to keep tabs on yourself throughout your journey.

This missing link doesn’t have to be missing from your life. It may be tough, initially, to call yourself or others out, but it will be worth it in the long run. Start today and the results will be immediate and long-lasting.