Coaching highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students: Create accountability for yourself

October 12, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Education, Leadership, Tips

[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Adding accountability to your transformation increases its chances of working and the quality of your work. I hope I’ve written this idea in many other posts. I say it to nearly every Columbia Business School student I coach. It’s a fundamental part of my role with coaching clients.

We all know we get done what we’re accountable for. What we aren’t accountable for we don’t focus on nearly as much. So when you create a plan to improve your leadership style, your life, etc, create accountability if you want it to work.

People who aren’t serious don’t create accountability. Or maybe they’re scared of being judged. There are innumerable reasons people avoid accountability.

How to create accountability

People generally won’t create accountability for you, so you’ll generally have to do it yourself.

The basic way is to tell someone your goal, process to achieve it, and observable milestones along the way they can observe. Then ask them if you can check in with them or for them to check in with you for those milestones.

Another way is to do it publicly, for example with a public presentation or performance along the way. Or by publishing it, like in a blog.

You can do it with a friend or colleague, like I’m doing with my burpees.

You can make important things in your life depend on it, like if you don’t succeed you won’t be able to pay your rent.

You can force yourself to succeed in a sink-or-swim situation. I have a friend who goes to a country where he doesn’t speak the language to develop non-verbal relationship skills.

I’m sure you can come up with many other ways to create accountability for your projects.

How to find people to hold you accountable

I usually find people based on two criteria: whom I know and what the task requires.

Among people I know, I can choose friends who know me and are willing to stand up to me if I get lazy; people who will see it as friendly, not a burden.

Regarding the task’s requirements, sometimes I pick people who are involved with a related project or who will depend on me.

Sometimes I use the public to hold myself accountable. Once I put my name in the hat at the Moth — an easy task — I forced myself to continue publicly — a scary task, but one I wanted to do.

Benefits of accountability

Accountability does more than motivate you to finish.

It does more than motivate you to do a good job.

One of the most effective things it does is change the effect of the rest of the world on you from holding you back to pushing you forward.


When you’re nervous about changing, thinking about the rest of the world tends to make you anxious. You think they may judge you, for example. Or you might think your friends, family, colleagues, etc won’t like the change or think you’re weird for doing it.

When you ask one or more of them to help, you involve them in the process, which motivates them to help you. You get them on your side when you tell them your motivations, goals, processes, etc

Long term

The more you make yourself accountable, the more you get things done, the more you improve your life and leadership skills, resulting in more reward for your efforts, which motivates more improving your life and leadership skills.

Eventually you change from fearing others evaluating you to wanting them involved. Your life becomes more comfortable even as you challenge yourself more. People understand you better for your openness. You improve more about yourself. You view accountability as something desirable. Responsibility too.

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1 response to “Coaching highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students: Create accountability for yourself

  1. Pingback: Get leadership coaching like an Ivy League business school » Joshua Spodek

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