Stay on the right track

Pic by Dan Gold

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Winston Churchill

The road to success is a lonely journey, but you never travel alone.

You don’t live and work in isolation.

Successful organizations are not the result of a genius CEO but rather the collective effort of their employees. Even solo entrepreneurs or artists benefit from the wisdom and experiences from those around them.

No one succeeds alone.

Behind every successful person, there is a great person or team. Surround yourself with the right people. Others can provide inspiration, knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and keep you on your toes.

You need someone whom to answer for your actions and results — a person that can keep you on track and honest. Having an Accountability Partner can dramatically increase your chances to succeed.

The Power of Accountability

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” — Stephen Covey

Having a dream is not enough. You have to own your dream.

Most people fail to achieve what they want because they don’t set goals. Or they set unrealistic or unspecific ones — which is the same as not having any goal at all.

Accountability means answering or accounting for your actions and results. It’s what leaders want more of themselves and their teams.

A study developed by the Association for Training and Development (ATD) found out that the probability of you achieving something is directly linked to being specific and committed.

If you simply have an idea or goal, you are against all the odds. Consciously deciding to achieve something increases your chances from 10% to 25%. Once you decide when and have a clear how, your chances of succeeding become 50–50.

Social commitment dramatically increases your odds.

When you commit to someone that you will do it, stretches your probability to 65%. Moreover, when you create a specific accountability appointment with a person you are committed, the odds are in your favor: 95%.

Thomas Monson said: “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

The likelihood of getting new habits to stick or reaching your goals dramatically increases when you set a time to report back to someone on your progress.

Social accountability increases the likelihood of achieving your goals, but it’s not enough. You need to commit to with one person in particular. An accountability partner is the key to your success.

The principle of reciprocity — one of the six forms of persuasion — is why an accountability partner is so powerful.

If someone devotes their time and commitment to help you succeed, unconsciously you feel compelled to pay them back. And the best way to do so is by achieving your goals as you committed to.

An Accountability Partner Is Not an App

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” — George Washington Carver

An accountability partner is someone who coaches another person to help him/ her keep a commitment.

The accountability partner (AP) is not a human version of an app. Her purpose is not to simply remind you of what you need to do. His role is not to mechanically reward your improvements either.

Your success depends on developing a mutual relationship — find someone who complements your skills and whom you trust.

1. Tracks your goals:

Without clear goals — what you want to achieve, timeframe and how you will measure it — , there’s no point in having an AP. This applies not only to more obvious goals such as weight loss or exercising more; it also works for modifying behaviors (e.g., interrupt less in meetings).

Your Accountability Partner can help you ‘track’ your learning. Journaling is a great exercise to reflect as you make progress. Practice that same experience with your partner.

2. Calls out your BS:

Most people fail in achieving their goals because they lack self-awareness. They always have something or someone to use as an excuse. However, playing the blame game will get you nowhere. Keeping you honest is the most important role an AP can play.

3. Uncovers Blind spots:

Building on the above, you cannot fix what you don’t know you don’t know. That’s why blind spots are called that way. Everyone can see them but you. Other people can be your best mirror. Your AP can illuminate what you are missing, as I wrote here.

4. Red light:

Changing behaviors or creating a new habit is not a linear process. Your progress can slow down. Or your lazy brain will try to get back to your comfort zone before you ever notice it. Think of your AP as a warning light that turns on when you are about to revert to ‘bad behaviors.’

5. Sounding board

When you hit the wall, you need more than a goal tracker. I remember when I had to resign to a large client due to conflicts with another that my parent company has won. I felt devastated; my AP help me brainstorm solutions. She didn’t provide the answer. However, using her as a sounding board help me recover faster.

6. Eases the pain:

Changing behaviors or trying to achieve new goals is anything but easy. Your accountability partner can alleviate part of the stress and pain by refocusing your energy. Whether you need some fun to relax your perfectionist mind. Or require extra motivation when running out of gas. You accountability partner won’t remove the pain but can alleviate it a bit.

7. A partner in crime

Remember, you don’t travel alone. Sharing the journey with your AP will make you feel accompanied across the journey. My wife has been my accountability partner for most of my projects. Not only she knows my BS but has also been part of my journey has strengthened our relationship too.

What Style Is Best for You?

“On good teams, coaches hold players accountable; on great teams, players hold players accountable.”― Joe Dumars

A. Individual Accountability

This is the situation when you choose an AP to help you achieve your personal or professional goals.

Depending on the nature of your goals, choose someone who’s either part of the situation or someone completely detached to what you are going through.

B. Team Accountability

All organizations want to encourage accountability within their teams. But, like with anything related to work culture, it cannot be imposed — it needs to grow from within.

Increasing self-awareness builds accountability. That’s why teams need to start by encouraging each individual to own their behaviors and results. When each team members become responsible for their acts, it’s easier to build collective accountability.

Another thing I encourage when coaching teams, is to create partnership duos. Each team member should find an AP from the team. Similar to what AA does, it creates an accountability network. Each person is responsible for her own behaviors. Each AP helps his partner stay on track. And the group as a whole owns the team collective accountability.

C. Reciprocal Accountability

This works when two people are going through the same experience. My wife and I decided to start the same diet at the same time. We both became accountable to each other. This is powerful to achieving goals; your AP is experiencing the same challenge as you are.

Are you preparing to run a Marathon or Triathlon? Find someone who’s planning the same and become each other’s AP.

How to Work with an Accountability Partner

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” — Thomas Jefferson

1. Choose someone that can keep some distance: The hat knows you but is not necessarily a friend. My wife is mine on personal matters but, at work, I chooses someone different.

2. Test the relationship: Before you commit to a longer engagement, experiment for a few weeks. Try a couple of AP and see which one makes you feel more accountable

3. Define clear rules of engagement: Start with some initial operating principles and then adjust as you go. If your AP works at the same company, you need to agree on privacy (e.g, what can be said in front of others or not). Also, some people prefer a more active coaching style while others want a more passive one.

4. Establish regular touch points: The “I’ll call you when I need you” approach doesn’t work. Both parties need to commit to meet periodically to build the rhythm and cadence.

5. Create a shared language: I usually tend to be very energetic and challenge people’s ideas which can be intimidating for certain folks. One AP I had used to tap the table three times out of the blue. That was our agreed signal to remind me when I needed to smooth my approach.

6. Revisit your goals: Every three months or so, reflect on your progress but, most importantly, on the overall journey. What has changed? What have you learned? What needs to be adjusted?

Putting It All Together

The road to success is not lonely when you have an Accountability Partner.

Keeping yourself on track requires more than measuring goals and progress.

Success is a consequence of learning and perseverance. Find a partner who is not afraid to call your BS, illuminate your blind spots, or simply tell you a joke to reenergize your journey.

No one succeeds alone. Hope my tips will help you find the right partner in crime.

What’s your experience with accountability partners? Share your stories.

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