How to Trap Your Way to Accountability

By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA

Ever set a commitment for yourself and fail to get it done? Sure you have—we all have.

It might be that 5 a.m. run we carefully planned the night before, or it could be to get through our unread emails by the end of the day.

Sometimes the stakes are even higher—like carving 5 percent from the expense budget or having a sit-down with an underperforming employee.

Despite our best intentions, being accountable only to ourselves for getting important things done is a system rife with flaws.

Now, of course we did not become physical therapists without a healthy dose of self-discipline and an unwavering drive. We all have that—but it is not always going to be enough. It is easy to let ourselves down from time to time because often there is little immediate consequence.

But letting others down is much harder.

The thought of looking in someone’s eyes and admitting to failure makes me quiver.

And this discomfort can be used as great leverage in our pursuit of execution.

By making ourselves accountable to others, we will get some really important stuff done. And it is easy to do.

When setting a commitment, start by defining it for yourself—clearly. Tell yourself exactly what you will do, and by when. If you need to be more disciplined with your spending, set a measurable and time-based target such as, “I’m going to commit to reducing my variable expenses next quarter by 5 percent.”

Once you have established your commitment, then you need to set what I call the “accountability trap” for yourself. The accountability trap ensures that you will not be able to slide by with anything less than a valiant effort toward your commitment. Set your trap by voicing your commitment to someone who will hold you accountable.

In your business, your accountability options are plenty, but I prefer confiding my commitments to someone who I can trust to actually keep me accountable—someone who I respect enough to care about what they think of me, and someone who respects me enough to hold me to task.

This could be a business partner, a member of your management team, or a mentor. The possibilities are endless as long as you share your commitment with someone who will actually keep you accountable.

Not only is this exercise as easy as it is powerful, but it also serves the benefit of modeling a culture of accountability within your organization. By demonstrating the importance of accountability for your own behaviors, those you entrust to hold you to task are also learning an important lesson in accountability for themselves as well.

Performed strategically, you might be surprised at the difference this technique can have on a bottom line.

tannus_quatre Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, lives at the intersection of physical therapy and entrepreneurship, spending his time helping physical therapists build and operate successful practices through his company, Vantage Clinical Solutions. He specializes in marketing, finance, and business planning, and authors and speaks regularly for the APTA and PPS. He can be reached at

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