During some of the most productive times in my life, I have had an Accountability Partner. Their main benefit has been an external voice that constantly points to my values and objectives as the North Star for decisions.
If you Google “how to pick an accountability partner,” there are tons of results. What I’ve found most valuable is to have someone who:
- Cares enough about my well-being to think through the issues I face as deeply as they would their own;
- Understands my core values and drivers of happiness, which allows them to say things like, “are you really happy with that or just trying to convince yourself that it’s good?”;
- Knows enough about my type of job and industry to be able to give relevant feedback; and,
- Is willing to call me on my shit.
Mentors, Bosses, and Spouses
When I outline my annual objectives, I specifically note how I want to keep myself accountable for each of them. Naturally, my boss will do some of that work. And naturally, my wife will keep tabs on other objectives. But there’s a bunch of stuff that does not fit well with either one.
First, I’m unlikely to talk to my boss about the places I am really struggling — at work or at home. It’s a little awkward, and I’d rather project, “I have everything together” as much as possible.
Second, there are issues at work that are difficult to share with my wife. Confidentiality prevents me from sharing certain business information; she doesn’t have my job, so it is harder to imagine the tradeoffs and challenges I face; and she doesn’t know my company culture and the individuals involved. Hence, I need another person to serve as my accountability partner.
For me, that person is a peer. The feedback that an accountability partner gives is in many ways like what one would get from a mentor. The problem is that mentors are typically older and more advanced in their careers. So while they have experience, they may have forgotten what it was really like when they were in your shoes.
For example, if I need parenting advice, I don’t ask my parents. Instead, I ask someone whose kid is 1 year older than mine. They have all the wisdom and experience, but can also provide advice that’s a lot more relevant to how I think of the world, the tools that are available to solve the issues today, and a greater sense of the context.
Also, you can meet with your accountability partner over drinks, which is its own type of fun. As my Dad always said, “you can’t get drunk with your mentor.”
I want to hear your thoughts!
This is a “living post,” in that I’d like your help to add to make it more valuable. What have you tried that is similar? Have any stories about the impact of using a tool like this? Please share!
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