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Word Defined: What is Accountability?

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

As seen in APeeling in September 2020 - Likky Lavji

What is Accountability?

Accountability is when you can trust people to deliver on a project or a commitment when they said they would. The second part of accountability is having faith in yourself to deliver on the promises you made so others will trust you.

Accountability is what builds trust in our relationships because we are ensuring we take responsibility for our promises. We are respecting others and ensuring they know they can count on us in the future. Accountability is the actions we take when a promise is broken, an excuse is made, or a deadline casually pushed out.

According to the Webster’s dictionary, the definition of accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.

We can choose to not hold someone accountable and ignore the issue or we can step up and hold make them answerable by having the hard conversations with them or ourselves. When we do not take responsibility for ensuring our promises are met, we cannot successfully demand others take responsibility for theirs. It starts with us through example and ends with us through communication of expectations.

My Story

Accountability used to be an issue for me because I lacked trust in others.

I wasn’t able to hold people accountable because if I couldn’t trust them, I couldn’t have the tough conversation to hold them accountable. Instead, I would say things like, “Can you just get that done for me?” I wouldn’t explain that I needed it done by a certain time and ask if they were able to do it.

I didn’t hold people accountable to the task at hand because I didn’t trust they’d stay if I held them to a deadline or a level of excellence.

When I had my IT company, we used tickets, which would not be closed on time for one reason or another. Not because people didn’t want to get them done, they wanted to do the work. The problem was, I wasn’t clear about my expectations because I didn’t want to create conflict. I figured if I created conflict, they were going to leave the company.

Accountable to Myself

When you are not being accountable to yourself, you do not take responsibility for what you promise to do because you don’t trust the process to get it done.

You won’t hold yourself accountable if you have limiting beliefs about yourself, don’t care about your performance, and do not trust yourself to do the job you promised to do. It’s easier to let the deadline pass, to only do the minimum of effort, or to produce at a level of, “Good enough,” than it is to have tough conversations with yourself and those who rely on you. If you don’t do what you said you were going to do, it affects other people who will either have to initiate a difficult conversation with you or do the work themselves.

Limiting beliefs like, I’m not good enough will always come into play when we fail to be accountable because if I’m not good enough, I don’t trust the process I set up to get the job done. If I don’t trust the process, how am I going to hold myself accountable?

It’s a cycle, which starts when we agree to do something we don’t think we can do because we feel pressured or it’s part of our job and we are scared others will find out we can’t do it. It is the same reason why we don’t start the task and hope it goes away because we believe we can’t figure it out, which will prove we don’t belong in the role, in the relationship, or with the company. We hope it will go away because our manager won’t want to have the hard conversation and will eventually give the task to someone else to complete.

There is also the other side of the coin where we want to try lots of different things. We start projects but then they get hard, boring, or something more interesting comes along and squirrel, we’re off on another project.

People who suffer from shiny object syndrome won’t hold themselves accountable because they are on to the next shiny thing, which is a better idea than the last one. They make lots of promises and of course, nothing ever gets done.

A lot of people, like myself, are a quick start. My Colby index says I will start new projects on an ongoing basis because I get bored easily. However, it also says I will finish them. My history shows I’m naturally a great starter, but I’m not as good of a finisher.

I have worked hard to hold myself accountable and ensure I finish what I start and stay focused. I still stray off the road after a shiny object or two, however, I have a great coach who holds me accountable. He shines the light on those shiny objects to show me that they aren’t part of the plan, and they don’t fit, they blind me from my goal. He helps me to keep myself accountable and to complete the work I set out to do.


Likky Lavji is the Blind Spot Navigator, helping organizations, teams, and individuals discover the blind spots in their lives. check out the Blind Spot Assessment

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