Making progress can be hard. 

Whether we're looking to do things differently, or do different things; we know it's not enough, to simply make a decision - and create a plan. 

(And let's face it - that in itself, is often harder than we imagined it would be...)

Once we've decided what we're going to do next, we need to take action - and follow through. 

But, the question is: 

Will we? 

(Especially if no one on earth seems to either notice - or care - whether we do, or we don't...)

It can be really challenging to keep doing what we need to do - so we can get where we want to go.


At its heart, accountability is about taking responsibility for meeting internal and external expectations. This includes the expectations we have of ourselves - and the expectations other people have of us - at work, at home, or in our communities.

The weight of this can sometimes feel pretty heavy to us.

Just mention the word 'accountability' - and some of us some of us find ourselves rolling our eyes...

...others are running for the hills.

This makes sense.

Following through is hard.

We can find it hard to manage the all the expectations that are swirling around us. Besides, some of us have been burned, by our past experiences around accountability.

And because we're all wired differently, the strategies and mechanisms we may have been subject to (or subjected ourselves to) may not have been useful - or helpful.

Accountability makes a great servant - but a bad master.

Isn't that the truth?

But it's ALSO true, that many of us will benefit from having some informal, or more formal accountability built into in our lives.

Just for the record, I've had a conflicted relationship with accountability myself - so I understand, first hand, some of the challenges here.

But what I'm learning - in the midst of my own life and work - is this:

Accountability can make all the difference in the world.


Having some healthy accountability can enable you to:

  • focus on what matters most
  • get moving - especially at the start 
  • follow through - and take action
  • get things done
  • get unstuck
  • make the progress you want to make
  • keep heading in the right direction, over time

The trick is, to find a way to the build in some accountability strategies and/or relationships that fit who you are - and what you're working on.

Of course, we don't always get to choose how (or to whom) we are accountable.

Whilst some bosses may welcome hearing that your company or organisation's management or supervision structures aren't working for you - others may not...

But, here's the thing:

Becoming someone who invites - and even welcomes accountability, rather than resisting it, can open up opportunities for conversations with others, that can influence and serve to re-shape things, in productive ways.

And where you do have more freedom to choose? That's brilliant. 

You may need to experiment a bit - to find what works - and what doesn't.

But the benefits of accountability - both to you - and to those you around you, are likely to be well worth it. 


This week, I took some time to read Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which has been on my list for a while now.

This book is primarily about habits, rather than accountability; but it contains some useful insights - particularly into how and why different types of accountability strategies work better for different people.

Rubin introduces a framework (which she develops further in The Four Tendencies) which divides people into one of four types, based on the way they typically respond to the expectations placed on them by themselves - and by others:

  • Upholders: Meet both outer expectations and inner expectations
  • Questioners: Resist outer expectations and meet inner expectations
  • Obligers: Meet outer expectations and resist inner expectations
  • Rebels: Resist both outer expectations and inner expectations

Whilst I'm not sure that 'typing' people (whatever framework you use) is always helpful, typing myself here, has given me some useful insights, into why my own relationship with accountability has changed. 

This framework highlights why some of us benefit more from external accountability than others - and which strategies are likely to serve us best.

It turns out that external accountability is particularly important for Obligers (who have a hard time holding themselves to their own inner expectations - and do much better when they bring others in. Questioners can also find accountability helpful, particularly if they see it as a way to help them meet their own expectations of themselves. Upholders - even though they may have little trouble meeting their own expectations, or those of others, can still benefit from accountability - particularly to help them clarify their goals and strategies. Maverick Rebels often resist accountability of all kinds. But they may be won to creative strategies that will help them side-step obstacles, get things done (no matter whose expectations are involved) and learn to get out of their own way. 

So what have I learned here? By nature I'm a Questioner. I tend towards meeting my own expectations, but sometimes find myself more resistant to meeting the expectations of others.

This goes some way to explain why I've sometimes found myself wriggling uncomfortably under external accountability. Especially where it's primarily been about meeting the expectations of others.

It also goes a long way, to explain why I've become more comfortable - and welcoming of greater accountability.

Instead of seeing this as being about meeting the expectations of others - I've learned to see it as a way I can support myself - and enable me to meet the expectations that I'm setting for myself, across different areas of my life and work.

These days, when I find myself struggling to make progress, I'm much more willing to think about how getting myself somewhere to think - and some external accountability might help.

Over the last couple of years, I've been amazed at how much has changed.

Creating greater accountability has not only served me well. It has also helped me serve others, better...

Whatever it takes, right?   

Of course, accountability isn't some kind of silver bullet. You still need to take action - and follow through.

But, if you're looking to create ways to support and challenge yourself, so you can make the progress you want to make, building in some accountability might help.


If you're interested in ways to build in some internal accountability (so you can become more accountable to yourself), there are a number of strategies you can experiment with, to see what works best for you. These include various kinds of scheduling and monitoring, using a physical or digital journal or diary - and trackers.

If you're looking to build in some external accountability, working one to one with a coach, or an accountability partner, or joining a group - or a combination of these, can be genuinely life-giving.

As well as supporting you along the way, so you can get you where you want to go.

If you're looking to create better habits in your life and work Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before might be a good place to start.

If it would also be useful to have a chat about what you could try - and what sort of approach might work best for you, please feel free to get in touch - or book a free call. I'd be glad to have a chat - so you can think things through.


© 2018 Sarah Phillips, Away Coaching
May be shared freely - please retain contact details:
subscribe here to receive weekly blog posts in your inbox.