The road to success is a lonely journey, but you never travel alone.

You don’t live and work in isolation.

Successful organizations are not the result of a genius CEO but rather the collective effort of their employees. Even solo entrepreneurs or artists benefit from the wisdom and experiences from those around them.

No one succeeds alone.

Behind every successful person, there is a great person or team. Surround yourself with the right company. Other people can provide the inspiration, knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and feedback you need to keep you on track

That’s why an accountability partner can dramatically increase your chances to succeed. You must have someone whom to answer for your actions and results — a person that can keep you on track and honest.

The power of accountability

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”  — Stephen Covey

Having a dream is not enough. You have to own your dream.

Most people fail to achieve what they want because they don’t set goals. Or they set unrealistic or broad ones — which is the same as not having any goal at all.

Accountability means answering or accounting for your actions and results.

It’s what leaders want more of from themselves and their teams.

The probability of you achieving something is directly linked to being specific and committed according to a study developed by the Association for Training and Development (ATD).

If you simply have an idea or goal, you are against all the odds. Consciously deciding to achieve something increases your chances from 10% to 25%. Once you decide when and have a clear how, your chances of succeeding become 50%.

Social commitment dramatically increases your odds.

When you commit to someone that you will do it, your probability stretches to 65%. Moreover, when you create a specific accountability appointment with a person you are committed to, the odds are in your favor: 95%.

Thomas Monson said: “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

The likelihood of getting new habits to stick dramatically increases when you set a time to report back to someone on your progress.

Social accountability increases the likelihood of achieving your goals, but it’s not enough. You need to commit to one person in particular. An accountability partner is the key to your success.

The principle of reciprocity — one of the six forms of persuasion — is why the relationship with an accountability partner is so powerful.

If someone devotes their time and commits to help you succeed, unconsciously you feel compelled to pay them back. And the best way to do so is by achieving the goals you committed to.

An accountability partner is not an app

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”  — George Washington Carver

An accountability partner is someone who coaches another person to help him/her keep a commitment.

The accountability partner (AP) is not a human version of an app. Her purpose is not to simply remind you of what you need to do. His role is not to mechanically reward your improvements either.

Your success depends on developing a mutual relationship — find someone whom you trust who also complements your skills.

1. Tracks your goals

Without clear goals — what you want to achieve, the timeframe and how you will measure it — there’s no point in having an AP. This applies not only to more obvious goals, such as weight loss or exercising more; it also works for modifying behaviors (e.g., interrupting less in meetings).

Your accountability partner can help you “track” your learning. Journaling is a great exercise to reflect as you make progress. Practice that same experience with your partner.

2. Calls out your B.S.

Most people fail in achieving their goals because they lack self-awareness. They always have something or someone to use as an excuse. However, playing the blame game will get you nowhere.

Keeping you honest is the most important role an AP can play.

3. Uncovers blind spots

Building on the above, you cannot fix what you don’t know you don’t know. That’s why blind spots are called that way. Everyone can see them but you. Other people can be your best mirror.

Your AP can illuminate what you are missing.

4. Red light

Changing behaviors or creating a new habit is not a linear process. Your progress can slow down. Or your lazy brain will try to get back to your comfort zone before you ever notice it.

Think of your AP as a warning light that turns on when you are about to revert to “bad behaviors.”

5. Sounding board

When you hit the wall, you need more than a goal tracker. I remember when I had to resign to a large client due to conflicts with another that my parent company has won. I felt devastated; my AP help me brainstorm solutions. She didn’t provide the answer. But got me back on my feet in no time.

Using an accountability partner as a sounding board will help you recover faster.

6. Eases the pain

Changing behaviors or trying to achieve new goals is anything but easy. Your accountability partner can alleviate part of the stress and pain by refocusing your energy. Whether you need some fun to relax your perfectionist mind. Or require extra motivation when running out of gas.

Your accountability partner won’t remove the pain, but can alleviate it a bit.

7. A partner in crime

Remember, you don’t travel alone. Sharing the journey with your AP will make you feel accompanied across the journey. My wife has been my accountability partner for most of my projects. Not only does she know my B.S., but the fact that she has also been part of my journey has strengthened our relationship, too.

Your AP is a partner in crime.

What style is best for you?

“On good teams, coaches hold players accountable; on great teams, players hold players accountable.” ―Joe Dumars

A. Individual accountability

This is the situation when you choose an AP to help you achieve your personal or professional goals.

Depending on the nature of your goals, choose someone who’s either part of the situation or someone completely detached to what you are going through.

B. Team accountability

All organizations want to encourage accountability within their teams. But, like with anything related to work culture, it cannot be imposed — it needs to grow from within.

Increasing self-awareness builds accountability. That’s why teams need to start by encouraging each individual to own their behaviors and results. When each member become responsible for their acts, it’s easier to build collective accountability.

Another thing I encourage when coaching teams, is to create partnership duos. Each team member should find an AP from the team. Similar to what AA does, it creates an accountability network. Each person is responsible for her own behaviors. Each AP helps his partner stay on track. And the group as a whole owns the team collective accountability.

C. Reciprocal accountability

This works when two people are going through the same experience. My wife and I decided to start a diet at the same time. We both became accountable to each other. This is powerful to achieving goals; your AP is experiencing the same challenge as you are.

Are you preparing to run a Marathon or to learn something new? Find someone who’s on the same journey and become each other’s AP.

How to work with an accountability partner

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”  — Thomas Jefferson

1. Choose someone that can keep distance: A person who knows you but is not necessarily a friend. My wife is mine on personal matters but, at work, I have someone different.

2. Test the relationship: Before you commit to a longer engagement, experiment for a few weeks. Try a couple of AP and see which one makes you feel more accountable.

3. Define clear rules of engagement: Start with some initial operating principles and then adjust as you go. If your AP works at the same company, you need to agree on privacy (e.g, what can be said in front of others or not). Also, some people prefer a more active coaching style while others want a more passive one. Do you want an AP that just ask questions? Or do you expect her to provide ideas and feedback too?

4. Establish regular touch points: The “I’ll call you when I need you” approach doesn’t work. Both parties need to commit to meet periodically to build the rhythm and cadence. Consistently monitoring your progress will help you build the right mindset and provide opportunities for the AP to coach you.

5. Create a shared language: I usually tend to be very vocal and challenging which can be intimidating for certain folks. In a previous job, my AP used to tap the table three times out of the blue. That was our agreed signal to remind me — in a meeting — that I needed to smooth my approach.

6. Revisit your goals: Every three months or so, reflect on your progress but, most importantly, on the overall journey. What has changed? What have you learned? What needs to be adjusted?

Putting it all together

The road to success is not lonely when you have an accountability partner.

Keeping yourself on track requires more than measuring goals and progress.

Success is a consequence of learning and perseverance. Find a partner who is not afraid to call your BS, illuminate your blind spots, or simply tell you a joke to reenergize your journey.

No one succeeds alone. Hope my tips will help you find the right partner in crime.

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