Accountability is the key ingredient to any business; when you embrace it you get concrete results that make a real difference to the bottom line.

Expecting results is quite different from getting results, and the difference is accountability. When people are held accountable for their work rather than simply having it assigned, they are much more likely to get it done. In this video, Michael Polzler explains the difference and how accountability can be the secret to your business growth:

Results Beat Expectations

Everyone has work that’s expected of them, and everyone has expectations of their coworkers and employees. But expecting something to get done is simply another word for hope; and hope by itself doesn’t get the job done. After setting clear expectations and inspiring the right attitude, accountability is the final step you need to achieve results.

When meeting with a client, business partner, or colleague, even for just a few minutes on a quick phone call, we’re presenting our ideas to them in hopes of meeting a goal.

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Accountability Starts with You!

Our instinct is to think of accountability as something applied to others – our partners, staff, colleagues, and sometimes even our customers. But step one is to hold ourselves accountable for the day-to-day tasks and results people are expecting from us.

A good morning practice is to go over that day’s conversations (at least the ones you know are coming!) and rehearse them until you feel confident with your message and delivery.

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Accountability is Always Concrete

In the video, Michael Polzler defines accountability as an “unbending end.” This means accountability isn’t really accountability until you’ve set a clear task, deadline, and a way to measure its success. It’s rigid and can’t be waved away with an excuse like, “I misunderstood” or “I thought you meant something else.”

Accountability is much easier said than done, so we can all use some tips on how to practice it until it’s a regular part of the work day:

Room of people looking at whiteboard and working

1. Hold Yourself Accountable

If you find your to-do list dragging on instead of getting shorter, or your days filling up with distractions, you might need some accountability yourself. When assigning yourself tasks, or getting them from others, set up a system that fits with your unique work habits and forces you onto a path of accomplishing them.

Try writing out a checklist of steps you usually need to follow and anticipate the challenges that typically stand in your way, then run that plan a few times each day. Once you get into the habit of self-accountability you’ll be better equipped to help others.

Person writing notes in notepad

2. Bring Out Your Accountability Tools!

When people are assigned a task and then left to their own devices, they’re more likely to drop the ball. If you’re discovering failures only at the end when a deadline is blown, try stepping in earlier with some basic accountability tools. Organizations hold regular check-in meetings for exactly this reason – the knowledge that you will have to give a status report to the entire team tomorrow means you’ll get an earlier start on the work.

Asking people to complete checklists and file status reports is another way to ensure accountability – someone is less likely to check “done” if it hasn’t been done, and an incomplete checklist can be the start of a deeper conversation about how to make improvements or overcome workplace obstacles.

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3. Simplify Your Tasks

A major obstacle to efficiency and accountability is an overwhelming task – it’s much harder to “check off” an open-ended big-picture goal than it is with a smaller and more manageable step towards that goal. Instead of assigning someone the task of “increasing our social media reach,” break that down into bite-sized steps like, “Schedule weekend tweets” or “Research hashtags.”

Because these are more rigidly defined, the person responsible can be held accountable more easily. This is how you create an “unbending end” to the project and create a space for your partners to enthusiastically say, “Yes, I got that done!”

Blank sticky notes on whiteboard

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