What Does it Mean to Be Held Accountable?

We talk a lot about accountability. But what does it really mean to be held accountable?

Accountability is key to not only achieving your goals – but also enjoying the process, and owning the work

If you've been looking for ways to boost your productivity, you've probably heard (and yes, we do say that a lot!) that accountability is a key strategy in helping you get more work done. The word "accountable" may sound simple, but the concept can be tricky – for instance, some people may feel that just committing to a task is enough for them to be accountable for finishing it. But accountability goes beyond this – the real definition of being held accountable is to accept ownership of your goals and become answerable for your actions.

In other words, being accountable opens you up to having someone look over your shoulder to make sure you're working right, making progress, and moving towards completing the goal you've set out to finish – or facing the consequences if you fall short. It helps you become more alert, focused, and responsible – perhaps that's why people often use accountability and responsibility interchangeably. But there are differences – read on to find out more!

Looking to be accountable to your goals? At Boss as a Service, we'll match you with a personal Boss, who'll check in with you every day to make sure you're on track, and not slacking off!

The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

When you accept responsibility for a goal or task, you commit to finishing it – or being answerable to someone if you fail or are delayed. Here's how it differs from accountability.


Responsibility is task-focused while being accountable is result-focused. For example, if there's a project at work and take up the responsibility to get some data, that's all you have to do. Analyzing the numbers and preparing the report do not necessarily fall into your purview.

But if you are accountable for this project, your obligation is to do everything you can to get it done, including making sure everyone else is doing their job and assuming ownership of whatever results are produced.


Responsibility can be assumed or assigned, while accountability is obtained through personal choice and commitment. Let's see this with our work project again – you may volunteer or be instructed to get the data you need, so it becomes your responsibility. But taking true ownership of the project and its results is a choice that you make.


Responsibility is dependent on the time of the task. Accountability can be for one task, goal, or general activity. When you are responsible for one project, there's already a timeline associated with it, which ends when the project is successfully closed. But doing your job every day properly is a never-ending process, and hence you can be held accountable for it continuously as well.


Responsibility is usually a group effort, while accountability can be individual. A work project is the collective responsibility of everyone involved in it, but holding people accountable for it depends upon their personal choice in taking its ownership. One person alone can assume accountability for it as well.

And of course, when you take up a personal goal, you can't really hold people accountable for it as well, right?

Own your work - and the results!

How to be held accountable

Decided that you could do with some accountability? Here's how you go about it:

Commit to yourself

Accountability is different from commitment, but it doesn't necessarily have to involve anyone else. You can hold yourself accountable by deciding your goal, setting your own deadlines and even giving yourself little rewards as positive reinforcement.

Gain feedback from peers

If you do think you want other people to hold you accountable, look to your coworkers, fellow students, or friends. Share your goals and work with them for feedback on your progress.

Get an accountability partner

Find yourself someone to hold you accountable – an accountability partner – and set up a system to work together. Tip: this is where BaaS comes in!

The easiest and quickest way to find an accountability partner is to join Boss as a Service!

Join a group of like-minded people

Sometimes numbers help! Join a support group related to your goal, or a class that teaches relevant skills, to have a group of people who can become invested in helping you reach your goal. Of course, you can return the favor by holding people accountable to their own goals too!

⁠Ask friends and family

I write this at the end because while there's no "right way" to get accountability, it's also never a good idea to mix goals and relationships. But if you feel a trusted family member or friend can give you a sense of accountability without it getting complicated, ask them to work with you.

Strategies to gain accountability

Set SMART goals

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant, Timebound) goals help you set clear expectations that you can share for accountability and define a path to success. For example, don't just commit to write a book, say you'll finish your fiction novel within six months by writing 500 words every evening.

Have clear expectations

If you want accountability because you procrastinate or abandon goals easily, look for strictness to help you get on track. Or, if all you're looking for is positive encouragement, be clear on what kind of support you'd appreciate. This will make sure you start off on the right foot.

Look for honest feedback

Being held accountable is your way of getting to success, so make sure your partner is being helpful but honest about your progress so that you do not waste time on things that aren't working.

Act on opinions and advice

You may think you have it all figured out, but if you get actionable advice and feedback, try to incorporate it into your work to see if it makes things better and easier.

Accept peer opinions and act on them!

Iterate the relationship

Have periodic check-ins and reviews to make sure your accountability partner and you are on the same page on whether progress is being made.

How BaaS holds you accountable

Boss as a Service is built to hold you accountable! With our accountability coaches, we make sure you're making critical plans, working on them regularly, and achieving everything you aim for. We also help with tools like Beeminder along with lots of little tricks and techniques to boost your productivity on a daily basis.

Looking for someone to hold you accountable? Check out how Boss as a Service does that, below!

Final thoughts

Being held accountable is not so easy, but with the right accountability partner, you can achieve all your goals and take true ownership of your actions!

Looking for more on accountability? Check out some of our other articles:

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