The other day I overheard the most interesting conversation. Two women were discussing where to go for lunch, when one suggested In-n-Out Burger (if you don’t live in the Southwestern US or Texas and haven’t experienced In-n-Out, let us offer our condolences here and now). To this suggestion the other woman quickly replied, “Absolutely not.”
“Why?” asked the perplexed friend.
“Because I have to get on the scale tomorrow,” the other replied.
A couple sentences later into the conversation and I came to realize that this woman was currently in a Jenny Craig weight loss program, and that the next day she was due for her weekly weigh-in. She knew it was coming, and that she was going to have to get on a scale, measure her progress and answer a barrage of questions from her counselor as to how the last week went.
Accountability. One of the most powerful success motivators out there. And yet so few of us take advantage of using its power as a springboard to dramatically transform our lives in a relatively short amount of time.
I’d like for you to meet Dave. Dave is in his 50’s with two grown boys and a marriage that has just celebrated three decades. Dave is an app developer and website consultant (you can check out a really cool app of his that EVERY husband should have here). Simply put, Dave is just an all around great guy. But best of all (for me, anyway), Dave is my accountability partner.
Oddly enough, I was looking to start an accountability relationship with another business associate when Dave approached me in January of 2012. He was setting forth his goals for the New Year and was looking to team up with someone that would hold him accountable for his performance. Since I was looking for the exact same thing, we met one evening and shared a bit about ourselves. We discussed what we hoped to achieve from the relationship and agreed on some ground rules.
|Accountability – so few of us take advantage of using its power as a springboard to dramatically transform our lives in a relatively short amount of time.|
That was nearly twenty months ago. We have met in person or over the phone nearly every Tuesday since. We start promptly at 8:15am and never take more than an hour. Usually our talks only last thirty to forty minutes. One of us will go first, sharing our successes and challenges of the prior week, any “a-ha” moments from reading or study, and our list of tasks and objectives for the upcoming week. Then we switch gears and the other goes through the same drill. Since we attend the same church and our faith is very important to both of us, we generally close our weekly discussion by briefly praying for each other.
Over the twenty months that I have been accountable to Dave, I have seen my productivity triple. That’s right. Triple. There is just something about our willingness to do what it takes when we know we’re going to have to answer to someone beyond just ourselves. For those that struggle with productivity, organization and time management, the effect of answering to somebody that knows your agenda and wants you to succeed can make all the difference.
In our Goal Achievement workshop, Living Life by Design, we strongly recommend entering into an accountability relationship. Simply put, it just brings forth better results. Think of it as another arrow in your quiver of success. But like just about anything else, accountability doesn’t really work well without a solid foundation or plan. Here are Six Essential Steps that we recommend for any successful accountability partnership:
1. Set ground rules – agree ahead of time what the parameters are. How often you will meet, and for how long. Mutually commit to complete honesty. Set communication boundaries (more on this later). Write in down, send it in an email, but by all means agree at the onset what form the relationship is to take. You may want to test the waters in a new relationship with a probationary period. Remember when I told you Dave and I have been meeting for twenty months? We started with a 90-day “trial period.” Once the ninety days were over, we mutually agreed that the relationship was helpful to us both and we haven’t looked back since.
|“When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.” – David Brin|
2. Find somebody that is committed as you are – this is vitally important. It is far too common in partnerships to have one member more heavily invested than the other. When one side is more committed than the other, the ultimate end result is usually feelings of resentment (on both sides). Take the time to find the right person, someone who will show up when they say they will, on time, ready to provide their update and ready to listen to yours. More accountability relationships fail due to unbalanced commitments than by any other cause.
3. Two ears, one mouth – you may have heard your grandmother say at one time, “Two ears, one mouth.” While this is a great reminder at any level of communication, it’s absolutely essential in an accountability relationship. Just make it a personal ground rule that when your partner is talking, you simply keep your mouth shut. You will have time to provide feedback in time (more on this below), but for now – LISTEN. I’ve have grown in great strides as a listener through my weekly discussions with Dave. I have learned through trial and error to recognize his pauses better. I have learned to listen for what we call at Integress Solutions “moments of brilliance”, which are things that Dave will say that I want to write down myself for reflection or study later. As an added side benefit, working on my listening skills each Tuesday with Dave has helped to make me a more attentive person to my spouse, my kids and team members at work. It takes work, especially when you may think you have a solution to a problem, but developing the art of being a skilled listener is worth it.
4. Provide feedback only when requested – Dave and I agreed to this principle at the onset of our accountability. Not every statement deserves a response. Not every challenge requires a solution. Remember, the key is to provide an environment where each person feels an ownership to accomplish what they set out to do. If you are successful in this regard, there won’t be a need for great amounts of feedback. Often times, merely articulating our efforts to another results in the added push or insight that is needed to take the next step. When feedback is warranted, Dave and I will most likely ask a question along the lines of, “It sounds like that was a struggle for you this week. I have a suggestion for next week. Would you like to hear it?” In this manner, we are asking and obtaining permission to provide feedback. Consider this approach whenever you may consider providing a solution or observation.
|Take the time to find the right person, someone who will show up when they say they will, on time, ready to provide their update and ready to listen to yours.|
5. No judgments – we’re all going to fail and come up short from time to time. I went through a difficult three month period where nearly every week I came up significantly short on my task list for the week. Dave listened, provided feedback when I solicited it, and never suggested that I should be performing at a higher level. Why? Because he knew that I was already aware of my performance. There is a fine line between judging performance versus encouraging someone to reach for the next level, but there is an important distinction nevertheless. Make sure you find an accountability partner that wants you to win even more than you do. Trust me – they are out there.
6. Accountability through encouragement – let’s face it, none of this matters if your partner isn’t holding you accountable. After all, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? At the conclusion of your time of sharing, it’s generally a good idea to solicit some form of feedback or suggestion. The best accountability partner will be able to provide encouraging words of wisdom to take with you into the next week. Sometimes the feedback will be of the positive, “stay-the-course” variety. Other times, those “encouraging words” will feel more like a kick in the butt. But one thing is true about a kick in the butt – it’s good for propulsion. Regardless, all feedback should be requested first, and given through encouragement – remember, you’ve teamed up with someone who wants to see you succeed even more than you do.
There they are. The Six Steps to Accountability Success. Dave will be thrilled on Tuesday when I tell him that I finally completed this blog.
Dale Marcouillier founded Integress Solutions in 2011 out of a desire to share basic success principles with others. You can email Dale directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you in currently, or have you been in an accountability relationship in the past? What worked or didn’t work for you? Do you have another successful accountability principle to share? If so, please comment below and tell us!