Accountability Partners

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I’m a lucky woman: When I seriously wrote down my goals for the first time, I had friends helping me through the process. And once I had defined goals, the same friends held me accountable to achieving them.

People have long said that writing down your goals increases your chances of realizing your plans. I’d add that accountability partners have proved equally essential to my achievement.

Accountability partners know what you want to accomplish and hold your feet to the fire on getting it done. They ask you about how you plan to progress toward goal. When forward movement stalls, they ask why. They help you work through obstacles. And you do the same for them.

What makes an ideal accountability partner?

  • Implicit trust. You need to spill your guts about what you really want. Your accountability partner shouldn’t laugh or dismiss your goals. Sure, he may ask some hard questions, but not in an overly critical or judgmental way.

  • Not your parents, spouses, or siblings. Your spouse asking about progress in your fitness goals will make you feel unattractive. Your sister asking about career targets brings up old rivalries. Your parents asking you about, well, anything harks back to childhood nagging. Family has too many undercurrents.

  • Matching styles. Drill sergeants don’t work for me. (“Boot camp”-style workouts? Pass.) Yet you might need someone aggressive to keep you on track and motivated.

  • Share and share alike. Your accountability partner needs defined goals as well and should look to you as an accountability partner in return. If he doesn’t have defined goals, he won’t understand their importance. And when both people spill their goal guts, the relationship is mutual—not one sided.

You can have many accountability partners. I have one friend I meet to write—we keep each other on track with targets and help each other get over speedbumps. Another friend and I meet every four to six weeks to share business-goals progress and we annually define these goals together. Accountability partners don't have to be one-size-fits-all.

Do you have accountability partners? Should you?