Accountability—The Winner’s Secret | Super U Podcast

Our new episode of the Super U Podcast is live! The Super U Podcast delivers curated tips to help you unlock and unleash your superpower on the world. On this week’s podcast, bestselling author and international keynote speaker Erik Qualman explains how to achieve the winner’s secret: accountability.

Click here to subscribe to the Super U Podcast. Need a sneak peek? Below are the main takeaways from the Accountability | The Winner’s Secret | Super U Podcast:

[1:21] The Top 10% Performers’ Secret

Erik Qualman recently had lunch with the CFO of a company that makes $80B in revenue annually. When Erik asked what percentage of his employees are rockstars, the CFO answered: 10%. What separates this 10% from the rest of the employees? Accountability. These top performers know how to be accountable and take ownership.

[2:14]  Self -Awareness

Whether you’re an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fool yourself. Giving yourself or your boss excuses for why you can’t accomplish X, Y, or Z seems like a comfortable route, but often you know if you aren’t giving 100% of your efforts. Holding yourself accountable for doing your best is essential, and most top performers possess strong self-awareness.

[2:54] Find Accountability Friends

Self-awareness can be difficult for everyone, so find a group of friends to hold you accountable. For example, if your goal is to workout, invite friends to do it with you. This metaphor applies to any goal, whether you’re writing a book or trying to become a person of better character. Find friends to help you achieve that goal.

[3:45]  Get Your Sh*t Together

Scott Galloway is a professor at NYU and an established speaker and writer. His New York Times Bestseller, The Four, focuses on the hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. He’s become infamous for kicking a student out of class who walked in an hour late. An email sent by the student to Galloway went viral, as well as Galloway’s reply. The email chain is below:

Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback

Prof. Galloway,

I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class.

As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.

I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.


MBA 2010 Candidate
NYU Stern School of Business

The Reply:

—— Forwarded Message ——-
From: [email protected]
To: “xxxx”
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:34:02 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: Brand Strategy Feedback


Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.

Just so I’ve got this straight…you started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which “bothered” you.


You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It’s with this context I hope you register pause…REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It’s not too late xxxx…

Again, thanks for the feedback.

Professor Galloway

[8:50] Be a Team Player: Don’t Make Excuses

Army General Shelton explains that accountability is the most important trait for a military individual to have. There was a superstar in the army rangers who was physically the strongest, but he wasn’t invited on important missions because he wasn’t reliable. General Shelton couldn’t depend on him to show up at a specific place and time.

Dean Smith, former basketball coaching legend for South Carolina, is famous for his excuse jar. Whenever a player would give excuses for performing poorly in school or on the court, Dean Smith would hand him a jar. “Those are good excuses,” he would say. “I might have some better ones in this jar. You can have one if you’d like because they’re free. The reason they’re free is because they’re worthless.” For teams like Smith’s basketball players, accountability is crucial.

Bill Belichick is the head coach of the New England Patriots, six-time Super Bowl Champions; his motto is: “Do Your Job.” If one player doesn’t do their job, it affects the other players, the coaches, and the team’s success. Team players don’t make excuses.

Key Takeaway: Hold Yourself Accountable

Make every minute count because how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Remember:  It's not what we take from the's what we leave behind.

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The Super U podcast is hosted by #1 bestselling author and motivational speaker Erik Qualman.

About the Author: Erik Qualman

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 49 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.
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