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5 Tips for Working with an accountability partner

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that I believe in getting the support of an accountability partner to help you accomplish your goals. Having someone to keep you on-track by providing encouragement and positive peer pressure can make all the difference in your development and prevent you from starting personal growth efforts that all too quickly, fall by the wayside.

Selecting a partner with the right characteristics is a crucial first step for moving towards achieving your objectives. However, if you are not structuring the work with your partner in the best possible fashion, you could still fail. Read on for some tips that will help you ensure your accountability partner becomes a powerful ally who will help you get the results you desire.

1. Have regularly scheduled meetings or check-ins

While it might seem like a reasonable approach to check in with your partner whenever the mood strikes you, it’s a better idea to have regularly scheduled meetings. Why? When left to our own devices, many of us might choose to reach out to our partners when things are going well, but keep quiet when we are struggling or when our progress is stalled. By having regular contact that’s scheduled in advance, you will increase your odds of staying on track, since you know you’ll have to report on your activities at a designated time. (Of course, having scheduled meetings shouldn’t preclude you from reaching out to your partner when you need imminent help or advice).

2. Agree on clear goals

Setting clear goals is an essential part of working with an accountability partner, because without clarity about what you are working on, the other person doesn’t have anything specific to hold you accountable to. As is the common rule with goal-setting, make your goals are specific and measurable. For example, saying “I’ll work on my book” is too vague to be useful. (Theoretically, if you wrote one sentence, you could say that you worked on it). Instead, a clearer goal would be “I will complete the first chapter of my book.”

To make sure you create discipline around goal-setting, use the last few minutes of your meetings to clarify your between-session homework. Doing so will increase your commitment, and make it easier for your partner to hold you accountable.

3. Keep track of progress between meetings

Depending on the goals you are working on, the frequency of sessions with your accountability partner can vary pretty widely. For example, while I’ve worked with some individuals with urgent or more sensitive issues on a weekly basis, there are many busy executives with whom I have monthly meetings. As you might imagine, a lot can happen in a week (not to mention a month) and if you’re not making notes, you can very easily forget successes that you would like to share. Further, you might also forget valuable instances for which you would benefit from having a sounding board or some assistance with problem-solving. Create a regular habit of keeping track of relevant experiences, so that you can make the most of your time with your partner.

4. Be honest

Admitting that you didn’t accomplish a goal or that you’re struggling in some way can be humbling. However, if you keep your troubles to yourself instead of discussing them, you deprive yourself of the reason of having an accountability partner in the first place – to hold you accountable and help you address areas that may be interfering with your development. The reality is, none of us are perfect. Keeping things to yourself (or misrepresenting the progress you are making) undermines your potential for success. Instead, own your shortcomings and fess up when things aren’t going well. That way, you can actually do something about it, by getting the help you need.

5. Take periodic assessments

Periodically, take a step back and reflect on how things are going. Is your accountability partner someone with whom you have a good rapport? Are your interactions positive and supportive, yet constructive? Does he or she provide you with useful feedback? Do you feel like you still need outside support, or are you able to go it alone with respect to your goal? Would you benefit from assistance from someone with a different style or set of skills or experiences? Switching up partners every so often can provide you with a variety of perspectives that can give you helpful insights for continued personal growth.

Are there other strategies that you use in your interactions with your accountability partner? Please share in the comments!

Patricia Thompson - Corporate Psychologist and Management Consultant | Silver Lining Psychology

About the Author

Dr. Patricia Thompson is a Corporate Psychologist and Management Consultant who is passionate about helping her clients flourish by making well-informed hiring decisions, cultivating talent, and developing a positive organizational culture. Read more...