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How To Take Accountability For Results: 4 Pitfalls To Avoid

How To Take Accountability For Results: 4 Pitfalls To Avoid

Many times throughout my career, I have committed to taking accountability for results, where on reflection, I wish I had asked more questions and taken a deeper dive into what I agreed to beforehand. In doing so, I would have saved myself significant stress, wasted time, and loads of frustration.

In researching the topic of accountability and best practices, there are many articles from a leader's perspective on how to hold employees accountable, but hardly anything on how individuals can set themselves up for success when agreeing to be accountable for a result.

To better understand the topic of accountability from an individual's perspective, it is best to start with a definition.


What Does Accountability Mean?

Accountability is the act of committing to a goal or outcome. It is an acceptance of personal responsibility, independent of whether the result is achieved or not. In the simplest terms, it is doing what you said you would do and not making excuses if the results were not attained.


Struggling to hold employees accountable? If so, this guide to accountability  is a must-read!


This article isn’t about avoiding accountability. That would be career-limiting as that’s what you are paid to do; deliver results for your organization. However, to prepare yourself for the next time you are asked to take accountability for results, and increase your likelihood of achievement, here are four pitfalls to avoid.


4 Pitfalls to Avoid When Taking Accountability for Results

  1. Unclear expectations
  2. Not tied to measurable metrics
  3. Lack of budget or resources
  4. Uncertain autonomy

How To Take Accountability for Results 1 - Niagara Institute (1)

1. Unclear Expectations

Unclear expectations are the most common pitfall individuals face when taking accountability for results. The leader has one thing in mind, but the individual taking accountability believes it is different due to ineffective communication.

To avoid misunderstandings and a lack of alignment on the accountability, repeat back to your leader your understanding of what is being asked of you. In doing so, you’re articulating your understanding of your accountability, which allows your leader to clarify any incorrect aspects. Keep repeating your understanding each time they provide clarity until you come to a point where you both agree.


2. Not Tied to Measurable Metrics

It will be hard to achieve your accountability if the ask is vague and overly generalized. For example, suppose you’re asked to “attain new clients.” In that case, you may find yourself in a situation where your leader's expectations can never be met, or the goalposts keep moving on you as their expectation on the number of new clients or when that goal was to be achieved was never solidified. 

To avoid this situation, agree on metrics that clearly define what success looks like by asking the following questions before you commit to the accountability: 

  • How will you evaluate if the accountability is met? For example, the accountability should have a measurable number against it in attaining new clients, such as five new clients that we currently do not have in our database.
  • What is the timeframe for the accountability? For example, in the attain new clients scenario, set if the result is for the quarter or the year. Accountability for results must be timebound.


3. Lack of budget or resources

Another common pitfall is accepting accountability for results without the required budget or resources. Before committing to an outcome, map out what you’ll need. For example, using the scenario of attaining new clients, do you need a travel budget to visit prospective clients? What resources will you require from the marketing team? Can the marketing team deliver those resources in the required timeframe, or will you need to outsource the work? Will you need help from a senior leader in closing the deal? All resources should be pre-determined and agreed to before committing.


4. Uncertain Autonomy

An often overlooked pitfall that can significantly impact if you’re able to achieve what you’ve committed to is the level of autonomy. You’ll want to establish the boundaries up front on where you can make decisions and take actions and where you need approval and input.

These boundaries will help ensure you do not get in over your head but have the latitude to do what you see fit to achieve the result needed. These boundaries also act as a backup in the event you find yourself where others give their opinions or challenge your decisions; you’ll be able to point back to the autonomy you were granted when accepting accountability for a result.


Quiz: How Personally accountable are you? 

Now that we've defined what it means to take accountability for results and what to avoid when doing so, it's a good time to figure out just how personally accountable you are. Fortunately, the following quiz is a great place to start! 


Conclusion: Take Accountability for Results but do so wisely

When you take accountability for results, you’re demonstrating your commitment to achievement, your reliability, and your willingness to help the organization achieve its goals. It goes without saying, accountability is an important quality for career advancement.

However, it is crucial to set yourself up for success when committing to be accountable for a result. By doing some work up front in defining expectations, metrics, resources, and boundaries, you’ll be more efficient, productive, and more likely to hit your target when the work starts.

How To Hold Employees Accountable:  A Leader’s Guide to Accountability in the Workplace

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