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A Leader’s Most Important To-Do List

You have your three big goals and initiatives for the year. You have your personal goals written down with action plans and projects attached to each one. And you keep a massive to-do list all of the tasks you have to complete. These are all critically important lists. But there is another list that is more important to your success as a leader.

I am waiting for . . .

The most important list you can keep as a leader or a manager is the list of commitments that your people owe you.

The people that work for you owe you certain results. They have been hired to perform some job, and in doing that job there are commitments that they make that require them to provide you with something. Your people owe you information, the completion of some task, or an update on an issue that they own.

Who owes you information about a client or a project right now, without which you can’t make a decision on how to move forward?

Who owes you a completed task without which it’s completion, you have no ability to take the next step?

Who owes you a status update on some project? Who owes you a meeting invitation?

Tracking these commitments allows you to follow up and ensure that they are completed, that commitments made are commitments kept, and that your people are accountable for their commitments.

A culture of accountability

The “waiting for” list is a tool to help you create and maintain a culture of accountability.

Things don’t get lost. Commitments don’t get missed. Big initiatives don’t fall off the radar because the urgent was allowed to indefinitely postpone what’s really important. Why not? Because you ask about the commitments every time you speak to the people that owe you something on your “waiting for” list.

It doesn’t take long before those that work for you expect you to run down the list of the commitments that they owe you every time you see them.

It’s easy to keep this list with you if you keep it electronically, and if you keep the list sorted by the name of the person that owes you something you have a built-in agenda for every meeting you have, formal or informal.

You are the bottleneck

As a leader, you can be a bottleneck.

Your people, your company, and your clients are waiting for you to make decisions. Many of the decisions that you need to make require that you be supplied with the information to make that decision. Still more of the decisions require that other tasks be completed before you can proceed in determining next steps.

Creating a culture of accountability engenders speed and focus. The “I am waiting for” list is a tool to help create that culture of accountability and ownership. It opens up the bottleneck and allows you to progress more quickly.


You track your commitments and promises. How do you track the promises made to you?

How do you remember to discuss the commitments that people owe you?

Why is accountability important to high-performing people and sales organizations?

What belongs on your waiting for list?

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  • John Schumacher

    ACCOUTABILITY isn’t something to be imposed upon others! It’s a relationship to invite others into. Instead of focussing on what others owe to you, a far better approach would be for you, the Leader, to make sure your own commitments are impeccable.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I disagree, John. Leaders get wrapped up in doing and make the mistake of believing that what they need from others will get done without their follow up and attention. But these ideas aren’t mutually exclusive, keeping their own commitments sets the standard, doesn’t it?

  • Jmostert

    I agree completely! Keeping track of commitments both inside and outside an organization is important. Can anyone suggest cloud based tools available to do this?

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Google’s Tasks works well. If you use a Mac, I like Omnifocus. It syncs from the cloud to both your iPhone and your iPad. 

  • Ralph Bastarache

    I like the phrase “Culture of Accountability”. Far too often there seems to be a lack of accountability at all levels of an organization and it needs to be a two way street. I need to be accountable to my team and to my manager, and they need to be accountable to me. The “wait for” list and “to do” list are equally important! 

    Enjoyed the post!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Ralph!