Have you ever set a goal but didn’t follow through on it? Have you been stuck because you just don’t know where to begin, or had a deadline but haven’t been motivated to do the work until the last minute? Did you feel the quality of your work suffered or unhappy with the results?
I’ve had experiences like these. It can be especially frustrating when you truly do want to make a change or take action, but for some reason you just can’t seem to put yourself into it… that’s where an accountability partner can be a huge help.
In 2014 I was introduced to the concept while taking a 20-week “Launch Your Dream Book” writing course. Writing a book is a huge undertaking and requires a lot of discipline and determination. One of the very first assignments they gave us was to find an accountability partner to support us through the process and urge us to completion.
They suggested we connect with someone through the book course group Facebook page. I considered a few people, even had a brief three week exchange with a gal who was also in the course but we had a conflict in schedules and it just wasn't working. I knew I wanted to choose someone that I could be brutally honest with, someone who I could learn from and wouldn't let me off the hook too easily. I also thought it would be great to have a personal connection with the person, not just some random stranger online who was taking the assignment because we had been asked to try it out.
I gave some thought to asking a friend or one of my LinkedIn professional contacts but a few night later I was invited to a dinner party and sat next to an adorable woman who was like a bright shining light. I couldn’t help it; I was immediately attracted to Melissa Schnapps’ positive nature and outlook. It wasn’t surprising when she told me she has been a life coach for years and was now interested in expanding the scope of her business by becoming a motivational speaker. She had a terrific presence and sense of self confidence.
We made a date to meet at her home to continue our conversation. I was keenly interested in having her take me on as a client so I could experience using a professional coach as my accountability partner. The day of the appointment, Melissa welcomed me with open arms as if we had been friends forever – she even made me a delicious green smoothie for lunch! We discussed the accountability partner barter arrangement and immediately after returning home I emailed her a detailed description of what I was looking for and what I could offer her. One of her goals was expanding her platform as a speaker, something I had extensive experience doing. It was a perfect fit, and she jumped at the opportunity to set up a recurring date to exchange our talents and keep each other on task.
At that point I was under the impression that I had months to write the book, which was a relief to me because in addition to the holidays and end of year celebrations, I was also renovating and moving into my new office space. Then the leaders of the book course offered a challenge – if I could write and turn in the first draft of the book (25,000 words/50 pages), before midnight on December 31st, I would get a “special reward”. I was immediately up for the challenge – and I had an accountability partner. I felt like I could do anything I put my mind to!
In just two weeks, with the help of weekly 1 hour Skype appointments to keep me on track and motivated, I completed the assignment. It was the most invigorating end of the year I had ever experienced. We both appreciated the results of our weekly calls that they continue to this day!
The structure of each weekly accountability date with Melissa was predetermined. At the beginning of each call we would quickly decide who would start and we’d simply focus for 30 minutes on what was important for that person at this time. For more information, here’s a link to Melissa’s video on Goal Setting.
Depending on what area you are focusing on, you may want to find someone with specific skills to address or provide resources for you to consider, such as a business or coach, a nutritionist or a personal trainer. The most important thing is the chemistry between you, the feeling of support and encouragement and inspiration to fulfill the goals you set out to do.
One more idea - as I was completing this post, I happen to listen to James Altucher's podcast interview with Adam Grant, the author of the book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Adam mentioned that for the greatest success to propel him forward, he would rather work with someone who challenged him and questioned his intentions, instead of someone that was purely supportive and agreeable to his every idea. This got me thinking... in addition to support, working with an accountability partner that asks tough questions or makes bold statements that require thoughtful responses would also be key to truly making progress on goals.
Especially if you are seeking to make changes and don't know where to begin, you will find the most success choosing to work with someone who is willing to give you specific feedback and suggestions. If you are really disciplined and simply need someone to use as a sounding board to hear your own thoughts and to keep you on task, establish this expectation at the outset will be helpful. It's important that both parties are clear and understand their roles in the arrangement.
If you are determined to reach a goal, I highly suggest the assistance of an accountability partner!
Melissa Schnapp suggests that you wrap up each accountability session by answering the following questions:
1. What did you get most out of in the conversation?
2. What specific goals are you making a commitment to accomplish?
3. What date is your deadline for each goal?
Journaling since 1975, I love to write. Pen to paper is an invitation for my inner voice to show up.