Two women shaking hands over business deal.


Accountability is not a dirty word.

Thinking about being held to account for something certainly doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. “Yay, please ask me, in the middle of a meeting of my peers, where that report is that I haven’t finished yet. Bring it on! “

Yet, successful people embrace accountability.

So how come there is all this negativity surrounding accountability?

The very definition of accountability is at the root of the problem. Here is the definition:

“subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something”

The definition begins with the words “subject to.” This brings up an automatic “me versus you” phenomenon. The word “obligated” implies I have no choice in the matter. Finally, asking me to defend or justify something automatically puts a person on the defensive. In this ordinary definition, accountability is a threat and I am left powerless.  

What if we looked at accountability in a new way?

What if we simply looked at accountability as a contract between two people, whether at work or in your personal life.

I give my word (freely) to you to do “X”, whatever “X” is and I give my permission (freely) to you to hold me to account. All of this is of my own free will. At work, some may argue that it isn’t free will if you HAVE to make a promise to your boss. I disagree. You took the job in the first place knowing full well the job description and what was expected of you. Thus, even in this scenario, you are acting out of free will and have total choice about the situation.

This new definition opens new possibilities for accountability.

When the threat is taken away, you have the power to hold yourself to account — you don’t need anyone else to do so even though you have made the contract with someone else.  

Don’t we always know when we’re about to fail or have failed? Why wait for someone else to call us to task. Call one on yourself! You were the one you made the promise in the first place and when you go to your boss about an issue instead of the other way around, you are not left defending yourself.

Under this new definition, you can find new inspiration for the way you work and how you handle yourself at work.

We are obsessed with figuring who’s to blame (including ourselves) when something goes wrong. Yet we spend very little time obsessing about what goes right, we just move on to the next thing. With this new definition of accountability, you now have the power to hold yourself to account for your successes as well as your failures.  

Successful people seek out accountability partners to ensure their success.

Finally, with this new definition of accountability, you can seek out partners to hold you to account without the negative connotations. For what? For any promises that you have been breaking with yourself because no one is looking.

Successful people find accountability partners that won’t let them off the hook and buy their stories. They find people who will remind them they can achieve whatever they set out to do.

Hope this opens something up for you.

Brand Category: 

About The Author

Jen Coken's picture

Jen Coken is an author, life coach, and comedian who wants to live in a world where you’re free to be yourself and achieve your soul’s purpose—a vision that has driven her work as a Coach, Speaker, Author, Comedian for more than 20 years.

Drawing on three decades of experience as a non-profit leader and grassroots organizer, Jen helps CEOs and entrepreneurs overcome their self-made limitations and do their heart’s work.

But Jen’s impact doesn’t end there: She spent six years on the Denver stand-up comedy circuit and brings a sense of humor to every topic she addresses, including the experience of coping with her mother's diagnosis and death from ovarian cancer.

Jen’s book, "When I Die, Take My Panties: Turning Your Darkest Moments into Your Greatest Gifts" chronicles that experience and shares Jen’s core message that everything that comes our way is meant to teach us about ourselves.

When she’s not crafting bestselling books or speaking to audiences around the country, you can find Jen eating Nutella by the spoonful in the nearest grocery aisle.

Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
1 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.