Monday, February 28, 2011

One Key to Changing Behavior - Being Held Accountable

It takes a lot of commitment and effort to learn a new skill or change a behavior pattern. Along the way, you should ask: Am I doing what I said I would do? Am I making progress? If you don’t check, you won’t know. You may be off track and not realize it. Knowing that someone will check not only verifies progress, it’s a motivator to follow through and do the work. And evidence of progress inspires more effort.

I have a friend who lost 60 pounds and kept it off. No pills, no tricks. He did it the old-fashioned way, taking his time with diet and exercise. He had some help, though. He went to weekly Weight Watcher meetings, followed their guidelines, weighed in every Saturday morning, and received lots of encouragement. In other words, he had an accountability coach. The scales don't lie.

It's amazing how motivating it is to to have regular measurements of your progress. It's especially effective when you know that other people know, too. If you're trying to change a behavior or achieve a goal, you can ask someone to be your accountability coach. Or you can help someone else by holding them accountable.

The first step is to discuss the parameters of the relationship:

1. Confirm the goal
Get the person to state the desired end result.

2. Decide what to measure
What actions will produce the result?

3. Make a list of accountability questions
Did you…? How many…? How often did you…?

4. Set up accountability conversation
Which questions? When to ask them? How to make contact?

5. Be there—ask the questions
Follow through on your commitment to hold the person accountable.

Here are some tips for doing this well...
  • Make sure the person wants your help
  • Keep your commitment to make contact
  • Keep a record of the accountability responses
  • If the person expresses frustration, LISTEN
  • When there is progress, give PRAISE
  • If there are setbacks, give ENCOURAGEMENT
  • Avoid patronizing, judging, cajoling, moralizing
  • Preserve confidentiality—keep accountability information PRIVATE
By the way, I made a 4-minute video about this...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo purchased from

1 comment:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Great idea, Denny! I'm a fat ass and need to drop 40 pounds, want to be my accountability coach? I'm sitting here giggling. I know you would--but I'm just kidding. I would only disappoint.

Love you and Kathleen.