Who are you giving an account to?
I was doing a check-in with my accountability partner the other day and after summarizing what I was asking of him, I reflected, “that feels like a lot.” He responded, “You are only asking me to follow-up and check-in on your progress. You are the one who has to do the work.”
I have some hard work ahead of me. Asking someone to hold me accountable does not make the work easier – it keeps me motivated and honest about what is important and what I will commit to do.
What is an accountability partner, and why would you want one (or more)?
I have several accountability partners. My primary accountability partner is a friend who has agreed to fill the role, and I do the same for him. My coaches hold me accountable to the commitments I make in coaching sessions. Additionally, I will enlist others when there is a need for a specific expertise or experience.
Accountability partner: someone who helps another person establish and keep a commitment.
An accountability partner will nudge you when you need a little push to achieve your goals. Your partner will help you break big goals down into actionable steps and follow up with you to see if you met your commitments while cheering you on. They will push you when you need pushing and provide encouragement when you are down.
Accountability: being accountable, to account for, the ability to give an account
I was at lunch recently with a friend. While discussing some challenges, I mentioned I leveraged an accountability partner to help me drive toward success. She asked how that worked; stating she tried working with an accountability partner, but it did not have any impact. She explained, “I asked a friend to be my accountability partner on something, they agreed, and nothing ever happened.”
Although anyone can be an accountability partner, not everyone makes a good accountability partner.
When asking someone to hold you accountable, the responsibility is on you to be specific about what you need. It is important to work together to design the partnership. Your agreement might include:
- What is the specific action for which you want to be held accountable (do what, by when)?
- Is your partner comfortable with and able to meet the request?
- How do you want your partner to follow-up or check-in (will you proactively report or will they initiate)?
- How often and how will you connect?
- What happens if you do not make your commitments? How would you like your partner address this?
- Are you asking for help other than a followup?
Clarifying expectations upfront will go a long way to determining your success and reducing some awkward situations. I’m guessing you do not want your accountability partner to be a nag or micro-managing busybody. If your partner senses you are making excuses do you want to be called you out? And how do you want to be called out?
Traits of a good accountability partner:
- You can be open with them
- They will be brutally honest
- They are reliable
- They will challenge you
- They support your success
As a coach, my clients expect me to hold them accountable. Like a coach, the right accountability partner will ask about your bigger goal: Your intent. Your why. They will help you break down that big goal into doable actionable steps. They will question if you are biting off too much or not pushing hard enough. They will be your champion rooting for you and celebrating your success. They will nudge you when you get off track and help you focus on what you deemed important.
Regardless if your accountability partner is your coach, your mentor, your friend; much of the success of having an accountability partner is attributed to human nature. Knowing I will make an account of my progress on a commitment to a friend is enough to motivate me to complete my task. We are less likely to disappoint another person than we are to let down ourselves.
What do you want to be held accountable for?
Who will you give account to?
- why I coach