Kick Ass Guide®: Everything You need to Know About Accountability

Apr 19, 2018 | Productivity, The ONE Thing | 0 comments

Accountability means taking responsibility for your success.

The accountable person is focused, action-oriented, and more self-reliant and confident than those who aren’t. While keeping an eye on the outcomes they desire, they lock-in on the actions and steps that will get them where there.  That makes them dependable.

When you’re accountable, you immediately propel yourself to the top. According to a Workplace Accountability Study with over 40,000 respondents, Partners in Leadership found that 82% of professionals fail at accountability. Further, 91% of people “indicated they would rank ‘improving the ability to hold other accountable in an effective way’ as one of the top leadership development needs in their organization.”

If we want to succeed, we need to become accountable. Whether you’re already accountable but want to learn how to be even more so, or you’re an accountability novice, our Kick Ass Guide ® on Accountability will help take you there.

Watch for the Four Thieves of Accountability

On your journey toward accountability, you’ll want to be aware of those who might derail you. In our research and experience, we’ve found that there are four types of people lurking in any office that actively work against accountability. In fact, you may have already had some unfortunate mishaps with them. If you are truly trying to become more accountable, you need to know how to recognize these people so you can avoid them at all costs.

  1. The ExcusersExcusers have an excuse for everything. If they’re late, they locked themselves in their closet for the third time this week. They couldn’t get out of their driveway because a trashcan was blocking their way. They had to stop and get a latte, and the line was out the door. While these people seem harmless, don’t be fooled. Their refusal to take responsibility for their actions will hurt you in the end. They are notorious for tricking you into relying on them, but coming up short.
  2. The VictimsPeople who habitually cling to victimhood believe that nothing is ever their fault. In their reality, all of the bad things that happen in their lives is the result of someone else’s actions. The thing about Victims is they tell themselves a story in which they are accountable, but everyone else around them isn’t and that’s why they appear to not be accountable. At first, you may not see the Victim for who she or he is. You may fall under their spell and believe that they are telling the truth. However, over time, if you are perceptive, you will start to see the cracks and understand that they just like to shy away from accountability.
  3. The BlamersBlamers are different from the Excusers and the Victims because they target both people and situations as the reasons why they aren’t accountable. They’re a force that deflects any sort of accountability to any place they think it’ll stick. Blamers are often found gossiping by the coffee machine or complaining loudly about a coworker. If you think you are safe because you’re friendly with a Blamer, you are mistaken. It is only a matter of time before the accountability they’re dodging lands on you instead.
  4. The GrabbersThese are the worst of the bunch. Grabbers are people who are not accountable, but will relentlessly, and without guilt, try to usurp your reputation of being an accountable person. Grabbers may try to take credit for your work or might try to undermine your ability to hit deadlines for their own personal gain. In a sense, they’re masters at siphoning off the success of other people, which exempts them from ever having to hold themselves accountable for results.

Practicing Accountability

The Four Thieves are obstacles to avoid or conquer on the path to accountability. That begs the question, what are the characteristics of an accountable person? The creators of the study we referenced at the beginning of this article defined accountability as “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”  In order to do this, you should go on a journey of assessing yourself, taking ownership, searching for solutions, and then taking action.

1. Assessing Yourself

To us, making an assessment of yourself might mean looking for the places where you can improve upon your accountability. Often, we can do a pretty good job by taking account of where we spend our time and where we aren’t being our best. However, there is only so much personal auditing we can do. We all have our own blind spots when it comes to our own performance. Therefore, seek feedback from those around you. Ask your boss, your employees, your coworkers, your family and your friends for honest feedback that you just might be missing.

There is a right way to ask for feedback. Often, those who give you feedback will make general statements. “You’re weak on presenting.” Or, “You need better research.” Ask them to be more specific. Asking ‘why’ is a great way to achieve that. Try to get them to get deeper until you have responses like: “You speak too fast when you are presenting, you need to slow down,” or, “You need more primary sources in your research.” Specific feedback is more effective when searching for your blind spots.

2. Taking Ownership

Owning your actions, your results and your effort covers a lot of ground on the path toward achieving ultimate accountability. This means that you will have to be ever mindful of adapting and constantly working to become better. Like Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” The most drastic changes occur from traumatic or unforeseen events. We learn the most when we have a blowout fight with our best friend. We grow the quickest after we lose a family member. But you don’t have to wait around for these types of events to happen in order for you to propel massive change. You can create situations that will catalyze your accountability.

According to the writer Benjamin Hardy, “Crafting highly demanding situations and then mindfully adapting to those situations is the key to success.” In his book, Willpower Doesn’t Work, he says, “History was not shaped by great men, but rather by demanding situations…Necessity…is the single most important ingredient in the formula for greatness–not a particular individuals brilliance or a lone leader’s vision.” In order to take ownership, put yourself in situations where you are forced to become accountable. Volunteer to lead a project, reach out to help a coworker. Even small acts of accountability are helpful — practice makes better, after all.

3. Looking for Solutions

Looking for solutions entails identifying and creating strategies to help you achieve accountability.

Here at The ONE Thing, solving it means implementing our 411s, sticking to our 20%, and timeblocking.

The 411 is the end-all-be-all tool for keeping yourself and your employees accountable. It is a way for you and your employees to plan out the most important work (your 20% work) for the day, week, month and year.

The 411 is a one page document that helps you bring priority to your personal and professional life. Below are the three most important questions you should ask yourself when filling out your 411:

  1. What are your personal and business goals?
  2. What do you have to accomplish this year to put you on track to hit those goals?
  3. What would you need to accomplish this month to feel like you’re on track for the year?
  4. What do you need to accomplish each week such that by doing it you could hit this month’s goals?

We have an extensive guide on the 411, which you should check out here. It outlines how to fill out your 411 and use it to your advantage. The most important things to know are that once you’ve answered the four questions above, you can break down your action plan to stay accountable to the goals you set for yourself on a month-by-month and week-by-week basis.

It’s simple, but it works. It will enable you to figure out what the most important thing is so that you can timeblock it everyday. When you time block those Big Rocks, you will be empowered to say ‘no’ to other tasks. This will keep you on track toward hitting your goals, and will enable you to stay accountable.

4. Taking Action

The last of the four strategies for achieving accountability require you to take action. But, what does that mean? If we get it all done, doesn’t that mean we’ve earned a reputation as an accountable person? Not necessarily. You must be ready to follow through with your actions and take responsibility for your (and others’) consequences. Consequences, whether positive or negative, are a natural result of any action, and you must be ready to own them. Positive consequences—like a big promotion, a proud nod from the boss, or feeling accomplished—are wonderful rewards for being accountable. These gifts keep you internally motivated and steadfast in your convictions. But, there are also negative consequences as well. If you are too externally motivated to achieve, you might become dependent on the opinions of others. In that case, it is best to remove yourself from those positive and negative consequences, and just focus on taking action.

What helps you take action?

For us, timeblocking keeps us accountable. Timeblocking is the means by which we turn plans into action. With timeblocking, we divide up our day into specific chunks of deep work. During that time, we must get our most important thing done—and allow everything to fall to the wayside.

The best timeblocks happen in the morning. To get started timeblocking, set aside just 15 minutes to get your most important work done. Over the next couple weeks, add more time so that you end up with a 1, 2, or 3 hour timeblock.

We offer an extensive Time Blocking Mastery Training at our website, go check it out to learn more!

Best Ways to be Held Accountable

There are really two best practices for achieving accountability; holding yourself accountable, and finding others to hold yourself accountable.

Holding yourself accountable requires a specific type of mindset. This mindset should be driven by one thing—your Why. Why is accomplishing your goals important to you? How will that change your life? If you don’t have a Why, search for it. Knowing that Why will help keep you accountable when the going gets rough.

If that isn’t enough for you, find others who will hold you accountable. Have you ever had an accountabilibuddy who helped keep you in line? If you have, then you know how tremendously helpful it is to have someone supporting you and calling you out on your excuses.

If you haven’t had one—go out and find someone. It is best if you can find someone who is also pursuing a big Why. That way, you can pursue your paths together.

Setting Accountability Boundaries

Sometimes, accountability will cost you; there are drawbacks to being known as the “accountable one”. Below we outline what those risks are and how to mitigate fallout from them.

Con #1: The Grabbers

You remember these guys? If or when you gain a reputation for being accountable, these vultures will swoop in. There is no doubt about it. You will have people circling you, handing off projects, asking for outrageous deadlines, and stealing away your precious and productive time. Grabbers see you as an asset and like any asset, they will want to control you. They will end up offloading their own stuff to you because they know you are an accountable and trustworthy person.

Con #2: Overloading

If you let the Grabbers take from you, you will become overloaded; you will have too much to do and too little time to do it. You will begin to live life at the beck and call of others. Your projects will fall to the wayside and everyone else’s ONE Thing will inevitably become your ONE Thing.

Con #3: The Cold Stare

You will begin to resent the Grabbers. Your good faith will have worn thin. You have to come to the realization that just because you take care of everyone else, does not mean that they will take care of you. You are the only person who can take care of yourself, so stand up against the Grabbers.

How to Mitigate the Backlash

Set boundaries up front. Have a frank conversation with your coworkers, employees, family members, significant others, or whoever else you share a significant interpersonal relationship with.

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Boundaries? What boundaries? I haven’t set up any boundaries!” stop everything and do it now.

But first, you have to know what your boundaries are. You surely can’t set a fence up if you have no idea where the cliff is. Therefore, you have to sit down and map that out for yourself.

Some might think that they’re too strong for boundaries, but people who set boundaries actually exhibit strength through self-care. When you don’t have boundaries, that may mean you have little self-esteem or self-worth.

To set good boundaries, take time to do the following:

  1. Discover your values. These values will help guide you toward the things you truly care about. Put a fence around those values.
  2. Calculate the numbers. How much time do you have for other people? How much work can you do for others? What can give in your life?
  3. Determine the consequences. What happens when someone climbs your fence and crosses your boundaries? Do they get one warning? Do they get three strikes? What happens when they seem to not care? When do you give them another chance?
  4. Stand up and speak up. Say what you mean, don’t parse words. Don’t allow people to steamroll you when you protest. You need to sit the Grabbers down and have an honest conversation about expectations. This is difficult, but it is a healthier alternative in the long run than silently raging. Plus, it helps to establish you as a person who has standards and sets boundaries for herself. Once you start doing this, it will get easier and easier. Soon, it will be second nature.


Like anything worth doing, achieving accountability will take some time. The trick is to be consistent with staying accountable to yourself. That is what truly matters, because that is where you will often see the biggest rewards. Your reputation for being accountable will come later, but it may be slow to come. That is okay, the pursuit in itself is worth it.

For the members of the Living the ONE Thing Community, they work toward accountability by using our online tools and resources, and by staying accountable to each other. In fact, they use a Facebook community to converse about their progress and setbacks on their path to achieving their goals. For them, the community has proven to be just the trick to keeping themselves accountable, and most importantly, to helping them get back on the horse after they fall off.

Do you have any good tips or tricks that help you stay accountable? Tell us on our Facebook page!