“I could really use some accountability” – I hear this all the time from people I speak to who tell me they want to make a change in their careers or their business. Who hasn’t been in the situation of setting goals and then falling off track? Getting accountability seems to be the obvious solution to the problem.

I have a few theories about accountability. Frankly, I don’t like it and I think you don’t need it. Read on and see if you agree.

The Guilt Trip

Okay, first things first – when I look at synonyms for accountability I see liability, answerability, blameworthiness. There’s blame. There’s burden. No wonder some people shudder at the word! It instantly makes me think of someone making me do something I don’t really want to do. It carries guilt. Of course guilt can be an effective motivator, but is that really the motivator you want to choose?

I believe you can make your own decisions and hold yourself accountable, if what you’re setting out to do is something you really want. If you value it enough. As a coach I’d much rather help you discover intrinsic motivation than put you on a guilt trip. And no, I don’t think you need to ‘push through’ and ‘overcome your fear’. I’d rather explore why that fear is there in the first place.

The Easy Way Out

Other synonyms for accountability are responsibility and duty. Fair enough. You need to take responsibility to do the things, and of course that can be scary. It’s easy to put that responsibility on a coach and get some external motivation. I get it – why should you take on the weight of responsibility if you can outsource this tedious task? It’s a great quick-fix. But think about it – if you like others holding you accountable, you will always have to rely on someone else to push you. What happens when that other person goes away? And how easy is it to keep rescheduling and avoid facing the external motivator? 

Come on, you can rise to the occasion and be a grown-up. I’d rather help you uncover your own drive and put you in charge. It’ll serve you better in the long run. 

The Power Imbalance

If you’re asking me as your coach to hold you accountable, you’re putting yourself into a powerless position – like you’re a child that needs their parent to discipline them. Like I know better than you. It’s a top-down approach that doesn’t sit well with me. You’re asking me to lead you, instead of taking leadership yourself. 

Similarly to my last point, come on, you’re an adult! You don’t need to submit to anyone. Enjoy the freedom of making your own decisions and step up. Don’t give your power away!

It’s Not All Bad

Don’t get me wrong – of course accountability can have its place. There are things in life we simply need to do, even if we don’t want to. Especially when it comes to work. That’s when getting accountability from someone else can be great and provide support. The keyword here is ‘support’, and that should come guilt-free and feel good.

What I often experience is people having an expectation towards me as a coach to hold them accountable, and it annoys me that coaching is often reduced to just that. I think we need to turn this around. Instead of expecting me as a coach to hold you accountable, you need to learn to become accountable yourself. I’d much rather help you with that and guide you to a place of true leadership. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear!