Accountability Partners

Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Many of us are willing to hit the snooze alarm and skip our morning exercise ritual – unless we have a friend expecting us to meet him or her. Knowing they await, we heave ourselves up and it’s off to the gym we go.

Being connected to someone who is not only tracking our goals but also has similar goals is part of the process of accountability, defined as the ‘obligation or willingness to account for one’s actions.’ Accountability is the matter of accepting responsibility and it’s one of the most important qualities any of us can have in our business life or personal life.

While it’s pretty easy to find a gym buddy – you may want someone who wants to lose weight if you do, someone with a similar schedule – you need to apply more strategic thought to finding an accountability partner for your career.

  • Trust is key. Find someone you can trust, as you are likely to be discussing financial goals or other confidential matters. And, it’s hard to build true accountability if you aren’t sure your partner will keep your conversations to themselves.
  • You say tomato, I say tomahto. Pick someone different from you – find a partner who differs in personality and maybe even comes from a different industry. You aren’t looking for a ‘yes man.’ Ideally, you want someone to challenge you to improve and a partner who isn’t afraid to be completely honest with you and will challenge you to be better than you are.
  • Set clear expectations. And set them in all areas. Be clear with each other about all details of the relationship. How often do you want to meet? What time of day? Share your goals with one another so you fully understand how the accountability relationship will proceed. If neither of you are clear about the parameters of the relationship, a successful partnership will be tough to create.
  • Define consequences. There’s no accountability without consequences. What those may be are entirely up to you and your partner –whether you owe them a cup of coffee or it’s an admission you dropped the ball – but sometimes, the feeling you don’t want to disappoint your partner is enough consequence.
  • A partner, not a mentor. Having a mentor involves a hierarchical relationship – typically, you want someone with more experience who can help train you. That’s not an accountability partner: in the latter, you want someone with similar goals and at a commensurate experience level.

Remember, accountability isn’t about making someone feel guilty or about blame. You want to motivate your partner to deliver on a commitment, just as you expect them to hold you accountable. It’s one strategy for helping you achieve career success.

Finally, having an accountability partner should be enjoyable. You don’t need to be best friends (in fact, it’s better if you aren’t) but look for someone with whom you can enjoy your mutual responsibilities.