“It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” Gandhi changed his world in many ways but he also left the rest of us with wise thoughts and inspiring actions. Sadly, there will always be people who try to avoid the consequences of their acts. Nevertheless, as therapists and coaches, we can help those who want to change. Tools like accountability apps can support them.
Accountability has turned into a bit of a buzzword these days. There are many reasons for this including the confusion around the difference between responsibility and accountability. Interestingly, many languages—French, for example—don’t have a word for accountability.
So, what are accountability apps trying to achieve? On the one hand, they motivate people because they show progress towards their goals. On the other hand, they give the mind some headspace to focus on the goals rather than trying to keep track of things.
As a therapist or a coach, you’ll know that these accountability apps only work when they connect to the user’s intrinsic motivation. Without that motivation, those apps soon get bypassed.
With Quenza, you have an incredible opportunity to support your clients to keep that intrinsic motivation going.
You can use Quenza’s goal tracker but you also have access to a large library of exercises, worksheets, meditations, metaphors, and more. You can easily send any of those to your clients to keep them focused and aware of their internal motivation. Why not see for yourself by signing up for one month to gain full access at only $1? Your clients will thank you as their new habits actually stick for the long term.
Why Accountability is Important
What does accountability actually mean? Yes, in simple terms it means taking ownership of the consequences of our actions. As mentioned though, the French language doesn’t have a direct translation and neither do several other European and Asian languagesr.
Does this mean that we, the French, don’t accept consequences for our actions? No, we just define these things differently. Although, in a bizarre linguistic twist, the English word comes from Latin, including the old French word “acontable”.
Nevertheless, regardless of whether people are “giving their account”, as we would say in French (rendre des comptes), or being accountable, certain traits stand out. It seems that research shows that, of the Big Five personality traits, conscientiousness and openness most closely predict high levels of accountability.
The research continues to show that extraversion and some degree of neuroticism can also positively impact accountability. Extraverts are often assertive which can sometimes make it easier for them to take feedback constructively to learn.
On the flip side, middle-ground neurotics who can tap into a healthy amount of anxiety will want to report positive outcomes to those around them. As such, they accept responsibility and accountability.
What does all this tell us about why accountability is important? In many ways, how a person approaches consequences tells us a huge amount about who they are and what they believe in.
This isn’t about judging or blaming people. It’s about understanding their mental health and even their level of self-actualization. As a result, a coach or therapist can guide a more successful co-creation process to produce a detailed case formulation.
Quenza offers a huge library of pre-made exercises for you to use with your clients. One way to check in with clients about how far they are in terms of self-actualization is with Quenza’s exercise named “The Acceptance or Avoidance Route”. By working through the questions, they can reflect on how much they accept themselves and reality as it is, including the consequences to their actions. It’s a practical exploration for clients to reflect on how they approach life.
Before we launch into accountability apps, it’s useful to also define accountability, including the difference between accountability vs responsibility.
In short, being responsible refers to taking the duty to carry out whatever task is expected. Accountability is accepting whatever consequences happen because of that task, or action.
Most importantly, accountability is a relational construct. Witvliet and colleagues define accountability first, as “being responsive to others to whom they owe a response”. Secondly, as being responsible for, and correcting as necessary, their behaviors, thoughts and emotions.
So, why are accountability applications becoming increasingly popular and mainstream?
In many ways, when used properly, accountability apps support our communities and workplaces by greasing the wheels of collaboration.
What is an Accountability App?
Now we come to the big question: what is an accountability app? If accountability and collaboration are correlated and even trust, commitment and efficiency, how can these apps boost our overall well-being and effectiveness?
In essence, accountability apps are digital tools to motivate people and keep them on track with their goals. They do this through various features including task tracking, reminders, progress visualizations, and sometimes even social components.
As accountability is a relational trait, it only truly works with an accountability partner which can be found through the app community or with a coach or therapist. The real power of accountability apps is to remove the burden of admin. Every new habit needs to-do lists and visuals to keep people engaged at its foundation.
The best accountability apps further differentiate themselves from productivity or goal-setting apps by tapping into their users’ intrinsic motivation. So, they might have exercises to define and regularly check in with purpose.
As values and purpose are deeply connected, the exercise “My Values in Different Life Domains”, found in Quenza’s Activity library, can be a powerful way to guide your clients to start defining their purpose. From there, their goals will be much clearer.
Other Features to Look For in Accountability Apps
|Task and Goal Tracking||The basic foundation of all accountability apps is the tracking feature. Overall, the aim is to be responsible for an action so that clients can start embracing consequences and hence, accountability. By setting goals, this becomes tangible and clear.|
|Communication and Collaboration||A good accountability coach app allows you to work seamlessly with your clients. Through your tailored communication, you can support them to stay focused.|
|Reminders and Notifications||What is an accountability app if not a reminder of what to do and where to go? Notifications can be set at specific times to further support whatever goal has been defined.|
|Visualizations & Motivational Boosters||A great accountability buddy app keeps people engaged. Graphics and charts that show progress can be very powerful. In addition, exercises to visualize their future self or explore their intrinsic motivation are also key.|
|Social Integration||Accountability apps work best when the user is answering to someone else whether an accountability partner, coach or therapist. After all, accountability correlates heavily with gratitude, forgiveness and humility which further reinforce positive relations and mental well-being.|
|Feedback and Analysis||Some of the more advanced accountability apps leverage AI and machine learning to give users insights into where they can improve.|
The Rise of Accountability Platforms
We all know how digital technology has changed the world but where has the increasing interest in accountability come from? It seems that this buzzword is everywhere these days.
A cynic could say that people are looking to blame others for not being accountable enough. It’s much easier to complain about today’s lack of accountability than to reflect on how to nurture the right environment for purposeful action.
An optimist might say that we’re in an unprecedented age of stress, uncertainty and depression. Due to this, people lack purpose and intrinsic motivation and as such, are unable to take responsibility for carrying out their tasks. They’re simply deflated and without hope.
Without intrinsic motivation, no one can be responsible or accountable. That’s why we all need therapists and coaches more than ever.
As a therapist or coach, you can guide people to reconnect with their purpose so that they want to take action. Consequently, they’re more likely to then weigh up the possible consequences of those actions. Being accountable then follows through more naturally.
Other aspects of the common accountability platform include cloud synchronization. This includes wearables and other devices such that people can track anything from anywhere. Some of the best accountability apps also integrate gamification to make accountability more experiential and engaging.
With the strong link between accountability and well-being, accountability apps are now everywhere. Although, it’s critical to remember that accountability only works if intrinsic motivation is present. That’s where you, the coach or therapist, bring value to the app.
You can ensure that an accountability app covers motivation and purpose or you should make sure to incorporate these separately. Either way, the personal work needed to drive accountability goes much deeper than simply following a tracking sheet. It’s up to you to motivate and engage your clients’ core to make that happen.
Where Accountability Apps Can Make a Difference
|Fitness & Nutrition||People want to be healthy but often need a reason to start changing their lifestyle. Accountability apps can provide the structure alongside a coach or therapist.|
|Work||Most leaders talk about a lack of accountability but are they aware of the environment they create? With the app, you, as a professional, can guide them to explore their actions and how this impacts those around them, including what actions they in turn take.|
|Personal Improvement||Many people wish they had more time for something whether that’s reading, travelling or spending time with their families. You can now use accountability apps to help them reframe their goals with respect to their purpose and time. They can then start accepting the consequences of their decisions.|
|Habits||Habits are hard to change because they require motivation as well as relentless repetition. Often, the rewards aren’t immediately obvious, for example eating healthily to avoid heart disease in 20 years. Accountability apps can help users define more concrete and immediate rewards.|
|Education||Students and younger learners often excel when presented with gamification or even VR to make goals more manageable and fun.|
Supporting Your Clients with Accountability Apps
As we’ve mentioned, the best accountability software includes task management features as well as visualization and communication mechanisms. Nevertheless, accountability doesn’t just happen because clients now have access to a fun tool to engage with.
Your talents and value-add as a therapist or coach can now shine through. Whether you’re a dedicated accountability coach or any other type of coach or therapist, you’ll need to guide clients to tap into their internal locus of control.
We’ve already explained the power of exercises to enable clients to discover their purpose and motivation. Alongside this, you can guide your clients to set goals that are connected to that purpose whilst being relational in context.
To further encourage long-lasting change, you need an accountability platform that gives you the flexibility to cultivate the right conditions for your clients. As accountability is relational, empathy and perspective-taking are key conditions. Only then can people adjust their behaviors to elicit different consequences.
All this needs to be embedded in motivation, as we’ve previously mentioned. So, again, look for an accountability buddy app that can help your clients define their intrinsic motivation.
In the context of the relational, a powerful app can also allow them to explore the people they interact with in their daily lives. A good reflection point would be to consider how much respect and concern they have for those people and therefore, how much they care about how their actions will impact those same people.
A Look at the Best Accountability Apps and Platforms
Depending on your style and approach, you might want an accountability coach app like CoachAccountable. This coaching platform manages your key business processes such as invoicing, scheduling as well as contracting. In addition, they have personalized client dashboards with all the tracking metrics you need to encourage personal accountability.
Alternatively, you might need to recommend an app to a client who is in the final stages of their coaching or therapy journey and now wants something to help them continue on their own. In that case, accountability apps that offer social integration and an accountability partner might be more relevant.
Either way, you’ll need to think about what you need accountability apps for. From your list, it will be much easier to define what the best accountability software looks like for you. To get you started, here are some of the top tools currently available.
Top Accountability Apps
|Quenza||An all-in-one platform that offers both automated business processes and front-facing client dashboards. With Quenza, you have all the key features required as well as a library of more than 200 exercises, worksheets, visualizations and more.|
|StickK||A unique concept where users sign a “commitment contract” and pledge some money which they lose if they don’t meet their goals. This of course assumes that the user is money-motivated.|
|Todoist||An intuitive interface that provides to-do lists, task breakdowns, deadline tracking and prioritization features. It’s simple, fast and effective for managing sub-projects and sub-tasks.|
|MyFitnessPal||Specifically designed for those who want to track their diet and exercise. The tracker features come with a food database making it easier to define goals.|
|FocusMate||This app finds you a partner to create quiet time with where you both focus on whatever you need to. These co-working sessions are particularly useful for digital nomads and other remote workers who miss connecting with other professionals.|
|Habitica||A fun app that uses gamification to complete tasks and create healthy habits. It also offers social accountability through groups and challenges.|
Tips for Making the Most of Your Accountability App
Accountability applications only work with the human touch. Without connecting users to their intrinsic motivation, the novelty factor of an app will quickly fade away. Old habits come back as do frustration and general discomfort.
It takes a certain amount of personal work to become fully accountable and open to accepting reality as it is. As a result, the best accountability app is both a support partner and a compassionate friend. Everyone needs to be kind to themselves as they work on their accountability.
The downfall of many accountability apps is that they promise change with the click of a few buttons. The illusion is that if I create a plan and to-do, everything will just happen. Unfortunately, the human mind doesn’t work like that.
In some ways, that’s good news for therapists and coaches because that’s where you can show your value-add. You’re not just the guide, you’re the accountability partner and the one who is willing to forgive. That’s a powerful offering that all of us need at some point in our lives.
Tips for Optimizing Accountability Apps
|Set purpose-driven, relational goals||As we’ve mentioned, goals themselves are not enough. They need to be partnered with a purpose and relational context to connect to intrinsic motivation.|
|Explore other perspectives||A critical part of accountability is understanding how consequences impact other people. As a result, it’s a good exercise to list out possible consequences from the point of view of those impacted.|
|Request feedback||Once actions have happened, specific feedback from those impacted can give valuable insight. A coach or therapist can be instrumental in collating that feedback in an unbiased and objective way.|
|Co-motivate||Whether this is through an accountability buddy or coach / therapist, we all thrive through mutual support and motivation. We are social creatures and “answering” to the right person can be hugely motivating.|
|Notifications||We all get distracted so helpful reminders at the right time can be useful. These need to be planned carefully to align with the user’s natural daily rhythm to fit seamlessly.|
|Accountability vs Responsibility||Make sure you can clearly explain the difference to your clients as this will help them self-reflect on how they feel about the consequences of their actions. A useful metaphor and framework to deepen self-reflection is the Accountability Ladder. Although, a word of caution with regard to the language. If you look closely, the ladder blends responsibility and accountability so again, be sure you’re clear on the difference.|
As social creatures, we depend on communities to function. Taking responsibility and accepting the consequences of our actions is deeply embedded in social processes.
This is particularly apparent in the workplace when people come together to make something happen. Although, it also applies to other domains such as fitness and health, education, and personal development in general.
Either way, accountability apps exist for a reason. Most of us are striving to be better people who can be more effective and make a greater impact on this world. To do this, it’s useful to have the structure and support that the best accountability apps offer. After all, we’re human and it’s easy to fall off the track.
When it comes to accountability apps, some are more geared towards simple goal tracking while others offer social integration and even buddy partnerships. As a coach and therapist, you too can play that buddy role. In fact, that’s how you add value to your clients.
Quenza allows you to do all of this by providing experiential journeys for your clients. For instance, there are over 200 exercises, worksheets, metaphors, visualizations, meditations, and more to choose from. All of them have the potential to deepen self-reflection, empathy, and self-forgiveness, key traits for developing accountability.
On the tactical side, Quenza also gives you goal-tracking features as well as communication, feedback, analysis, and notifications. The platform also allows you to automate certain processes, including your business admin which gives you more time with your clients.
You can easily test this all out for yourself by signing up for the 1 month, $1 only, full-access trial. You won’t regret it as your clients keep coming back for more and become staunch advocates for your brand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Once you know your needs, it’s easier to prioritize the features that will define the right accountability app for you. Nevertheless, common features include goal-tracking, communication and collaboration, social integration, feedback and analysis, notifications and reminders as well as visualizations and supporting exercises.
It depends on the type of goal and support you need. Some might check in with their accountability apps every few hours. Others might prefer a daily rhythm. It isn’t the frequency that matters, it’s your natural rhythm and needs that define the right frequency.
Most apps allow you to integrate various applications to make using multiple apps easier. Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that too much tech can also negatively impact your well-being, as well as your bank account. The aim is to find the right balance between tech support and living in reality.
These apps essentially connect you with a coach or a buddy. A coach will guide you to explore how your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs impact your accountability and how to change things internally.
A buddy is simply someone else who’s also trying to make changes in their life. The aim of working with a buddy is to support and motivate each other by sharing your progress and talking about your pain points.
Even the best accountability app can be misused. There is always the danger of over-relying on a tool to fix all our problems. Personal development is hard and takes effort, and it can be easy to blame the app when things don’t go our way.
All the to-do lists and goal-tracking features in the world aren’t going to change deep-rooted habits on their own. That’s how you, as a coach or therapist, can make a difference.
Show your clients how to tap into their purpose and intrinsic motivation while using the app. This will keep them engaged, and they’re more likely to follow the structure needed for their new routine.
In the end, you help them partner with the tool so that they can fully transform into new ways of living.
- ^ Report, G. (2022, February 2). What does accountability mean to you? - World Education Blog. World Education Blog. https://world-education-blog.org/2017/04/24/what-does-accountability-mean-to-you/.
- ^ accountability | Etymology of accountability by etymonline. (n.d.). Etymonline. https://www.etymonline.com/word/accountability.
- ^ Trivedi, A. (2013). Personality as a predictor of accountability. Social Science Research Network. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2314585.
- ^ Witvliet, C. V., Jang, S. J., Johnson, B. R., Evans, C. S., Berry, J. W., Leman, J., Roberts, R. C., Peteet, J. R., Torrance, A. B., & Hayden, A. (2022). Accountability: Construct definition and measurement of a virtue vital to flourishing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 18(5), 660–673. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2022.2109203.
- ^ Stewart, V., Snyder, D. G., & Kou, C. (2021). We hold ourselves accountable: A relational view of team accountability. Journal of Business Ethics, 183(3), 691–712. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-021-04969-z.
- ^ Peteet, J. R., Van Oyen Witvliet, C., & Evans, C. S. (2022). Accountability and autonomy. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 29(1), 69–71. https://doi.org/10.1353/ppp.2022.0011.
- ^ May, E. (2023, May 26). What Is the Accountability Ladder? (+How Leaders Can Use It). Niagara Institute. https://www.niagarainstitute.com/blog/accountability-ladder.