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Accountability Partners: There's A Good Way and A Bad Way

Don’t Worry, You’re Not in Trouble

So there’s a word I want to use here. It’s a good word. But it gets kind of a bad rap. The word is…Accountability.

Even though studies suggest that follow-through and goal attainment come more easily when you have another set of eyes on you, there’s just something about that word.

It kind of sounds like…I don’t know…like you’re in trouble? Like someone’s wagging a finger at you. But relax. No one’s sending you to the principal’s office.

Accountability is the best! I want you to learn to love it. Because it’s what makes your business go vroom. And a great way to be spectacularly “on the hook” is to get yourself an accountability partner.

So - what’s an accountability partner?

Accountability partnerships are when a couple of like-minded people commit to meet regularly and…well…hold each other accountable. Sort of like a study buddy in school.

You check in on stated projects. Ask questions and challenge each other. Monitor each other’s progress. Most of all, you support each other in the fight against any self-sabotaging behaviors.

Look. I’m not going to lie. I think the most effective accountability partner is a coach, but there are all sorts of resources to get an effective partnership in place.

In this blog, we’ll talk about what makes a good accountability partner. We’ll help you set the ground rules of the partnership. And we’ll go over how to hold up your end of the deal.

What Makes A Good Accountability Partner

Let’s start with who you don’t want.

A lot of times when we’re trying to get to the gym or adopt a new habit, having our bestie along can make it less like a chore. But fight the urge to ask a friend or spouse.

It may work for the gym, but an accountability partner in business is - by definition - someone who pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s better not to bring any other baggage into that dynamic.

Yes, choose a person you respect, someone who’s on a similar path. But a friend or spouse in the role can get really confusing, really fast. In an accountability partnership, it’s better if you keep the boundaries super-defined and the scope of your subjects limited.

Besides, it’s just easier to flake on someone you love. I know, it’s weird but so true.

A little more emotional distance between you and your accountability buddy will keep things more professional and clear.

But do choose someone special.

Someone who:

  • Has a similar work ethic and values

  • Has a similar style of communicating

  • Has a schedule you can work around

“[Y]ou must select someone who is as committed as you are, has similar values, can be available when you are available, and is genuinely interested in helping you succeed…” advises, “You must trust that they have your best interests at heart.”

An accountability partner should be someone you take seriously. Someone you can trust to be a dependable ally.

Try A Mini-Project Together

Have an idea of a person? Awesome. But don’t sign on the dotted line yet. Connect with them on one short-term project before committing to the long-haul.

Choose something that can be hashed out in a single sit-down. Ask for feedback. See how the two of you interact over a common problem.

How do they take your objections? See if you speak the “same language.” Do they seem generous, sensible, challenging, frank?

If you feel like you have a productive give-and-take dialogue, you can officially invite them to be your accountability partner.

Create Ground Rules

If you’re going to commit to this affiliation, you want to make sure you’re both on the same page. That means creating clear ground rules for the relationship.

At your first meeting, get clear on:

  • The Goals - Sketch out what you’re specifically looking for help on. Is it increasing lead generation? Refining your social media marketing?

Whatever it is, give your partner a specific ask. Make clear what areas you need them to monitor and push you on.

  • The Metrics - Talk about what progress looks like. Explicitly set down what the metrics of success are.

This helps accountability buddies be more focused and productive in feedback. Don’t make them invent a new measurement every meeting. Create a standard that you can visit every week.

  • The Schedule - Nothing creates flakiness faster than a floating, squishy schedule. Create some structure for your meetings by having a specific day and time that works for you both. Then, honor it.

If one of you can’t commit to that, you might not be ready for an accountability partnership.

  • The Language - Get clear on the method of communicating. I know that’s a hard thing to talk about - ironically - but it’s a good idea to put some stakes in the ground on this.

Both partners need to be able to discuss things in a frank, open, yet respectful way.

See, sometimes the process involves hearing things that are hard to hear. The method of interacting needs to be free enough to say the truth and strong enough to hear the truth. And it should always be done with a professional, solution-oriented vibe.

This Can All Change

Other than the language…all of these elements are open to change. Your goals may alter. Your metrics might need refinement. Your schedule might need a tweak.

That’s okay. But a standard must be set. And re-set.

Accountability relies on there being a norm to follow through on. Set your norms explicitly so you both know when you’re not living up to the bargain.

Your End of the Bargain

I want to make one - no two points here. And I want to make sure you hear me.

Having an accountability buddy is not about having someone to gossip with, whine to, or rant at. And it’s definitely not about having or being an emotional punching bag.

This is your work. It’s how you both level up. The idea behind accountability partners is about financial progress and concrete development.

So while we talk about what to look for in a partner, just remember you have a role in this too.

You’re there to be pushed and to push. To learn what you can’t see alone, and to help your accountability partner achieve new things. So come ready to give, ready to help, ready to learn.

That being said, keep your comments confined to what they asked you about - their business, their work. Being a good partner means inspiring them, reflecting back to them, suggesting solutions, and asking questions. And it’s about rejoicing in their success.

It’s not about judging or making them feel bad.

“An accountability partner is there to support you, to problem-solve and to celebrate even the small victories,” Dr. Tim Church, Chief Medical Officer at Naturally Slim told the New York Times. “Judgment is the quickest way to destroy all that. People are so hard on themselves. You don’t need to be hard on them.”

Of course, the flip side of that is…don’t be thin-skinned.

Go into this knowing that at some point you’re going to hear ideas and critiques that might not be comfortable to hear. Don’t give into your first emotion of feeling hurt or threatened.

Take a breath. Think it through. Ask yourself if the other person is trying to help. If the answer is yes, just thank them and take a note.

The Luxury of Accountability

See what I mean? It’s not about being in trouble. Accountability partners are about support, information, and big-time growth.

I believe you’re up for it.

If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, one of your main jobs is to learn. To reiterate and develop.

Open yourself up to accountability, and you’ll find an information gold mine - built just for you.

No idea who your accountability buddy is?

Hop on a FREE call with me. Let’s see if we’re a good fit.


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