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What is an Accountability Partner and Why Might You Need One


September 30th, 2015

- Updated on

April 24, 2018 - 11:19am
In the first part of a three part series on the topic of accountability, we explored reasons for increasing accountability, a hot topic for several of our clients. We introduced the idea of an accountability partnership as an approach for personal development and as a path towards successfully achieving goals.

If you or someone in your team is struggling to achieve agreed goals and objectives, consider an accountability partnership and how it might be of value.

In this post, we’ll define the role of an accountability partner and the qualities of a successful partnership, as well as where to look for a partner and begin the journey towards reaching your goals.

What is an accountability partnership?

An accountability partner is someone we work with to improve accountability behaviors. Our partner may act as a sounding board, reality-check, or cheerleader at any given time.
He/she helps us reflect on our current practices; expand, refine, or build new skills; share ideas; or help us overcome perceived or actual obstacles in the workplace – all with the purpose of helping us stay focused on our commitments and keep moving forward.

What are the key qualities of an effective accountability partnership?

When creating an accountability partnership, you and your partner should:
  1. Be reliable. Here’s the thing: for this to work well, each of you has to be just as committed to this partnership as the other. Don’t make room for excuses, no-shows, or a lack of commitment. Your work together has to be among the important activities that you commit to during the week.
  2. Have something to gain. This is an explicit relationship where you’re both clear about your goals and what you want. You both have to choose to partner because you are both invested in yourselves and in each other.
  3. Complement each other – or not. Some people find a lot of value in having an accountability partner who is a yin to their yang. In other words, their partner is different enough from them in style, personality, and/or experience to offer a new perspective. And some people have very successful partnerships with people who are just like them. The bottom line: find a partner who will challenge and encourage you in ways that you are not able to or prone to do yourself.
  4. Be honest, authentic, and trusting. Achieving results is hard work and it will require frank and direct conversations. Would you really want a partner who sugar-coats his/her opinions or expects you to take it easy on them? The only way you will get real value out of this investment is if you can count on each other to be authentic and honest. Invite each other to be candid with observations, thoughts, and ideas - and don’t be afraid to have authentic, yet respectful reactions when you hear something difficult. You’ll find that the most effective partnership is one where you can both ‘keep it real.’
  5. Have positive intentions. You and your partner have to have each other’s best interests at heart. While certainly you can expect to benefit from the partnership, you’ll gain much more when it’s not just about your success. Keep checking and regulating your intentions: are you partnering for all the right reasons?

Where’s the best place to find an accountability partner?

Look within your professional or social networks. Look inside or outside your industry. Is there someone you know who seems to readily achieve their personal or professional goals?
Be deliberate when it comes to finding a match for your needs but avoid being too selective to the point delay your development in the search for an ideal partner.

How often should accountability partners communicate?

It’s up to you and your partner to determine a cadence for your interactions. Some accountability partners like to check in with each other every day for a few minutes, while others find that once a week for 30 minutes is sufficient. Others have found that meeting for an hour or two every two weeks works for them.
As you’re forming your partnership, decide how often you should interact and how you should do it. Is it useful or appropriate to text or email questions or encouragement to each other? Will you communicate only through planned meetings? Are you willing to alter your communication plan as the partnership progresses?
Whatever you decide, allow very little to get in the way of your commitment. If rescheduling becomes a norm then something is clearly wrong and you need to recalibrate your partnership or logistics. Choosing to have an accountability partner is not a punishment and if communicating with your partner becomes a hassle or a dreaded interaction, it’s time to talk about it. It could be that the partnership has run its course or there needs to be a refocus on goals, commitment, or process.

How long does the partnership last?

Accountability partnerships are usually temporary relationships that end once the commitments are achieved. Some partners choose to continue coaching each other through additional goals, while others will mutually and formally end the partnership.
In the third post in this three-part series, we offer tips and ideas for getting the most out of accountability partnership meetings.
Renee Guzanek AJO Instructional Designer
About Renee Guzanek: For over 25 years, Renee has focused on the field of organizational development, where she has assisted leaders, teams, and individual performers improve their communication, business practices, teamwork, and job performance.  As a learner and educator, Renee has extensive experience developing and facilitating training programs and solutions that address workforce growth and viability.