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  • Dr. Julie Olsen

Take Accountability and Reap the Rewards


A biographer made up the story about George Washington confessing to cutting down the cherry tree. Yet, it is easy to believe based on his character.


The story has also been useful for generations of parents as an example of taking accountability. As a child, you may have learned that it is more honorable to own up to your actions rather than blame others or make excuses about why it is the tree’s fault.


On the other hand, holding ourselves responsible can feel risky. Admitting our faults may threaten our self-image and open us up to criticism from others. It may seem safer to focus on external circumstances instead of looking at our own actions.


The truth is that you could be missing out on more success by trying to evade responsibility.


Benefits of Accountability:

  1. Builds confidence. True self-esteem requires having the courage to take an honest look at yourself. Accept your weaknesses and missteps, as well as your strengths and accomplishments.

  2. Leads to positive changes. Taking responsibility puts you in control of your life allowing you can learn and grow. You will show yourself that you can adapt to change and manage the consequences of your actions. You can take action to resolve negative circumstances.

  3. Strengthens your relationships. Earn trust by living up to your commitments. You will deepen your connection with family, friends, and coworkers.

  4. Reduce stress. In the long run, facing the truth usually creates less anxiety than trying to cover it up. Being responsible allows you to enjoy greater peace of mind.

Tips for Taking Accountability:

  1. Evaluate your performance. Make it a habit to assess your role in any situation. While external events do matter, focusing on what you can control is more productive.

  2. Monitor yourself. Pay attention to your behavior even when there are no other witnesses around. Assume equal responsibility for successes and setbacks.

  3. Set realistic goals. Do you sometimes excuse your conduct because you are trying to juggle too many activities? Respect your limits and shorten your to do list. Creating priorities will help you to accomplish more.

  4. Listen carefully. It is difficult to hear what others are saying when you are on the defensive. Listen with an open mind, so you can understand their position even if you disagree.

  5. Apologize skillfully. Express regret promptly and sincerely when you let someone down. If possible, try to make amends and avoid repeating your slip ups.

  6. Consider others. If you need another reason to work on accountability, think about your impact on others. Remember how you feel when a business or a loved one harms you and refuses to take responsibility.

Tips for Fostering Accountability:

  1. Communicate clearly. Encouraging a more accountable culture makes it easier to assume responsibility. Start by clarifying your expectations, be specific, and share the consequences for not meeting them. Ensure that you understand what others expect of you as well.

  2. Gain commitment. Ask for agreement. It is easy to share your expectations then assume others agree. If you do not ask for a commitment to results, you may be disappointed by poor outcomes.

  3. Discuss empowerment. Share the resources available to meet the outcomes and clarify that the person is empowered to move the project forward even when barriers are identified. Offer support for assisting with being a “barrier buster.”

  4. Check in. Ask for updates regarding progress, challenges, and barriers. Be careful not to micromanage but use these updates to keep moving the project forward. Share specific observations, praise, and constructive criticism. Be grateful for any insights they give you.

  5. Be forgiving. Help others to be truthful. Respond with mercy rather than anger. You are bound to need a second chance sometime too.

  6. Be a role model. By assuming more accountability, you can automatically have a positive impact on others. You will be teaching others an important life lesson and contributing to a healthier workplace and society.

Accountability is a skill that grows stronger with practice. Take charge of your life by assuming responsibility for your actions. You will empower yourself to build the future you really want and help others get the results they want as well.


"Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the results."

Bob Proctor


For more ways to enhance your success, check out our services and available resources at our website or contact Julie Olsen: julieolsen@workplaceadvancement.com