Nine Tips to Make an Accountability Partnership Work

In the 17 years I’ve had my own business I’ve had a number of accountability partners. Some have been successful partnerships and others not. Right now, I’m in a great one. From the trenches, these tips will improve your chance of success.

  1. Limit it to two people. There are several reasons for this, which you’ll see in #2 and #4, but first it’s because you can’t back out of your accountability meeting as easily. I run with a bunch of friends and if there are more than two of us meeting for a run it’s much easier for one person to bail. The thought being, “Well, even if I don’t show up, there will still be other people there to run with, so bagging it is no big deal.” But if there are just two of us running, bailing means the other person is left running alone. Uncool. If there are only two in your accountability partnership you HAVE to show up.
  2. Agree upon a consistent day, time, duration and method of meeting. My accountability partner and I have a phone call on Mondays at 9:00 am CST for 30 minutes. We alternate who initiates the call every six months. Going back to the “only two people” idea, it’s much easier to agree on a day and time that works when you’re only looking at two calendars
  3. Put the meeting on your calendar and treat it like a client appointment. We rarely shift our meeting day and time. This is a commitment and we treat it that way. I book clients around our accountability meeting. If you can’t commit to a consistent meeting day maybe you’re just not committed enough to the partnership and this isn’t really for you.
  4. Decide how flexible you’ll be regarding the duration of your call. Ours is booked for 30 minutes but we can alert the other person that “today it needs to be an 8 minute call” if needed. No hard feelings if we don’t have time for a lengthy conversation. That flexibility makes it even easier to commit to the call no matter what else comes up. Only having two of us means we can be really efficient when we need to be.
  5. Decide what your commitments will look like. I decided early on that I would list no more than three commitments each week and they have to be tasks I need to be held accountable for. Nobody needs to be held accountable to check email. My accountability partner decided that three items work for him, too. The focus on just a few critical tasks is, well, critical. Commit to too much and you’ll fail every week. Be realistic.
  6. Think about how you’ll update one another about your progress on your commitments. Sometimes we email each other on Friday afternoons and sometimes we update each other on the call on Monday. That part is flexible and it works for us.
  7. Decide how you want the other person to deal with you if you don’t do the things you said you were going to do. Some people want no feedback at all. (I don’t get that but it works for them.) If I don’t do what I said I was going to do I usually want to be questioned about why. It’s uncomfortable to make lame excuses and that’s usually what keeps me from following through. Do the work and I don’t have to feel uncomfortable. That simple. Your partner may want to be handled differently. Just know what you both need.
  8. Don’t get too close. I consider my accountability partner a friend but not so close a friend that he makes excuses for me. “Oh, you’ve been going through a lot so it’s OK that you haven’t done what you said you were going to do for the last month.” That’s what wine with girlfriends is for. Accountability partners are to keep us accountable.
  9. Occasionally review the partnership and decide what’s working and what may need to be adjusted. Work and life situations evolve and your partnership will evolve, too. We regrouped when we saw our follow-through slipping a bit. Catch that early and make the necessary tweaks.

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