“Have you done your homework yet?” The booming accusatory voice came rising the stairs… Words that you usually hear from a parent to a child just before bedtime. That question reflects the idea that the child is accountable to his father/mother or the teacher for homework being done. 

Funny how years later you can hear the same tone in a voice or an email. Have you finished what was asked of you yet? And when you hear that phrase “have you done what I asked you to do yet?” It grates and brings forward the rebel response NO, and I’m not going to either.

It’s no surprise that with the idea of accountability comes a feeling of somebody, someone, somewhere forcing me to do something, I don’t like or want to do: It’s an imposition.

Accountability is an invisible shield.

It could simply look like an annual appraisal that someone in HR thought is a good idea.

What if there’s a different yet subtle way of using accountability? A way that moves you forward rather than hearing past echoes. What if accountability starts with me rather than the person on the other side? 

What if accountability is an invitation rather than a demand? If you ask people if they want to improve in an area of their life, or if they want to get better or more skilled at doing what they want, the answer is always YES! of course. Now here is the hidden power: Accountability is the vehicle that gets you there.

Once you get past what you want to achieve you come to the how. That is where accountability comes into play. How is that possible? The answer rests in being accountable once and then repeating. In essence, it’s building habits of accountability.

Accountability is a habit that can be repeated over and over again. It transforms an event into a process. It transforms processes into breakthroughs. It is a mindset.

Johnson Tamlit

Your resilience and the ability to bounce back from adverse events are affected by your accountability habits. What does an accountability habit look like? What it doesn’t look like is someone telling you what to do and when it should be done by. A good accountability habit is set by the only person who matters: You.

A good accountability habit is one where having decided what you want to happen YOU ask the help of others to help you to achieve what you set out to do. Professional athletes hire coaches to help get them to the Olympics. Business people do the same. It doesn’t have to be confined to sports or business applications. 

Accountability is not a one-off event it’s a process of taking responsibility and being courageous in asking if you can be accountable to someone else. Accountability is the engine of growth. With a mindset of wanting to be accountable vs. HAVING to be accountable the doors open; often much faster than before.

Take the example of trying to lose weight. A common goal. A lot of us have great intentions in this space. We can have several different strategies in mind like cutting out sweets, TRE (time-restricted eating) or going plant-based. A lot of people try hard to put these plans into action and sometimes they work, but not if you use only willpower.

One suggestion I made to someone is whatever your strategy find two or three trusted friends and ask them if they would hold you accountable for your plan. 

For example, every week when we talk I want you to ask me questions like how many sweets did you have, how many non-meat meals did you eat in the last week?

This can be applied in other areas of life. For people who are working towards happier home relationships, there could be plans to not work after 9 pm, walk more, and keep their anger in check.

Three elements of accountability:

  • Strategy: the how
  • Intentionality: the action
  • Personalisation: the act of identifying the key people to support.

Accountability is Intentionality. 

Whether it’s anger management or appetite management the approach is the same. Being accountable in mature adults is self-directed. It comes from the inside and needs intentional action.

What it is not is: I want you to stop me eating cake, or I want you to oversee and make sure that I am working hard enough. That’s an abdication of responsibility. Subtle and easily done. 

My accountability is firm to myself, it’s not top-down, and it’s not imposed from above. It’s not that mistakes and slip-ups can’t and won’t happen. But with accountability in place when the stumbles happen it means that they have the potential of being shallower and less costly in terms of time and effort.

What does it cost? Accountability can cost looking weak, feeling foolish, being open, and showing another facet of yourself. Most of us are not used to being in those positions. Yet not practising accountability also costs. Often a few more circles around the same mountain, a few more lost months or even years.

When we are not accountable to others there is a lost opportunity to build trust and ultimately community.

  • Who are you accountable to?
  • What does accountability look like from the inside out?
  • Write an accountability plan out and act on it now.

At the end of the day, it’s not the voice coming up the stairs that matters but the one coming from inside yourself. That’s the one that is the star of the show, the others are the supporting cast.

While external accountability may raise rebels, internal accountability raises self-esteem, and help us to achieve our goals.