One of the best things I’ve done for myself in the last year is finding an accountability partner. What exactly is an accountability partner, you may ask? Here’s my definition:
An accountability partner is someone of your profession, or any person who holds similar life values and sensibilities, with whom you meet on a regular basis. Both you and your partner share concerns and challenges – personal and work related, as they arise. Together, you discuss ways to address these challenges, brainstorm solutions, and then keep each other accountable to work through a particular difficulty and/or issue a desired change.
An accountability partner does not necessarily agree with you all the time, refrains from joining your pity party, can be your cheerleader as well as your teacher, engages in discussion and brainstorming, and is your sounding board to help devise a viable plan to address your concern(s).
An accountability partner is as invested in his/her own issues and desires as s/he is in yours, and is committed to the confidentiality of your mutual discussions.
This partnership model is similar to the one used to form a Mastermind group, which generally is fairly formal, often laser focuses on problem solving and goal setting and has 4 or more group members. The accountability partnerships I have experienced are more intimate, relaxed and relationship oriented. Your partnership will take on its own sensibility based on your personalities, why you are gathering and the kinds of challenges you address.
Here are the basic parameters for forming a successful accountability group:
- Choose a regular day/evening and time to meet by phone, Skype or in person.
- Agree on the length of the meeting – an hour is often the best option
- The meeting time is divided equally between partners (1/2 hour each)
- In the first ½ hour, Partner 1 states what issue s/he wants to focus on and gives information and background, while Partner 2 listens deeply (in silence) and makes notes for discussion.
- When Partner 1 has given all the information s/he thinks in pertinent, Partner 2 can ask questions, and the two engage in clarification, discussion, brainstorming, etc.
- During the last 5 minutes of the ½ hour, Partner 1 chooses what positive action(s) s/he will take regarding the issue until the next meeting.
- The process is repeated for the Partner 2.
- When the partners meet again, during their ½ hour they report on the progress or challenges of their chosen actions.
- Respecting and holding to the ½ hour time limit for each partner is important.
Some challenges have quick solutions, while others can take much longer periods of time because you may be taking many steps – some large, some small – to change a behavior, re-form a relationship, find a new job, etc., so care and understanding paired with accountability offer the best support.
The strength of this kind of partnership is that you each have someone holding you to your desires, cheering you on, picking you up if you stumble along the way, and helping you celebrate your successes. Because your partner has a degree of separation from your personal life, s/he can support you more objectively than, say, a friend or spouse, whose interest in you is deeply subjective.
You may know immediately who would make a good accountability partner, or it may take you a few tries to find the right fit. So, start by committing to meet for 4 sessions. This should be plenty of time to discover if you have a healthy, workable relationship. If you discover that this person is not right for you, dissolve the partnership, with many thanks, and move on. But, the search is worth it. The time you share with a good partner is time well spent.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions about forming an accountability partnership.