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Choosing the right Accountability Partner

men and women sitting at a table studying books

Struggling to reach your goals or stay focused on a task? You might need to find yourself an ‘accountability partner’, someone who is mutually interested in your personal success and willing to talk regularly with you to share wins and discuss challenges.


You might be wondering how this differs from a mentor in that regard, lets break them both down:


A mentor will hold you accountable but they will also: coach, guide, support, train and share their own experiences, they will help get you from where you are to where you want to be, usually by having done it themselves.


Whereas an accountability partner(s) will hold you accountable based on the goals you share with them, they might not have achieved what you are looking to do and they might not be able to offer much in terms of guidance but they will be an ear to listen and another perspective to your challenges.


Why accountability matters

Throughout life we will be faced with two types of accountability: internal (how we hold ourselves accountable) and external (how others hold us accountable), the focus of this article will be on the latter and more specifically, the types of individuals to look out for if you wish to find the right partner for you.


Being held accountable externally by one or more party has been proven throughout countless studies to increase the individual’s likelihood of completing a task that was set. You are more likely to complete something, if you have to explain to someone else why you haven’t finished it (and this relates further than just your career into all areas of your life!).


Think back to the days when you were in school. You were set homework that had a deadline, if you didn’t finish it you had to explain to the teacher why… having an accountability partner follows the same principle, only this time the teacher could be someone from a different profession (although a teacher would also still work).


How does having an accountability partner work?

Usually, an accountability relationship will be between at least two individuals, but more is possible if you opt for a group setting.

You each hold the other person(s) accountable based on what they inform you they want to accomplish and in what time frame.


Example #1

You: I want to write one technical article on Redux by the end of this week.

Your partner will now know that on Sunday evening, they must check in with you to see if you managed to accomplish your goal, but also in the days leading up to Sunday, check in to see how you are progressing.

The same thing might happen in reverse, only this time your partner wants to ‘finish their pitch presentation for a new feature by the end of the week’.


You can extend the goals further than a week, but short-mid term goals will be easier to manage for both sides of the relationship.


Who is the right accountability partner for you?

Truth be told, an accountability partner can be anyone. Industry, background, interests or location do not matter here. Remember, we are not looking for a coach, simply someone to keep us accountable. However, often we hear people search for partners within the same working domain for ease of conversation when discussing goals.


Who you opt for is entirely up to you, but it is worth knowing what possible pros and cons come with each potential partner group.


The loveable family member or friend

Pros – Extremely supportive, usually easy to communicate with and a high chance they already know where you want to go in life.

Cons – They might let you slip on your goals without holding your accountable over fear of ruining your relationship. This might seem great at the time but long term, goes against the reason for having an accountability partner.


The well intentioned albeit busy colleague

Pros – They understand how your usually work and tackle challenges, especially if you have worked together for some time. They will have a good base knowledge of you as a person and can communicate on a regular basis. This person might also have foresight into upcoming projects that could derail even the most well though through goals.

Cons – Work can often ruin these relationships before they have time to mature, depending on how business your projects are, simply finding the time to hold each other accountable could be a challenge. You might not also feel comfortable sharing more personal career goals such as promotions, looking for a new job or asking for a pay rise etc.


Online / offline communities

Pros – Similar interests will give for common ground to form a relationship. A wealth of knowledge is available to you within the right partner and if you run a community yourself, members will actively want to cheer you on and push you further.

Cons – Life happens and sometimes people leave communities (online and offline), or they disappear for a period of time without warning. This can disrupt your flow leaving you wondering what has happened.


Who you move forward with as mentioned is up to you, we recommend that whoever becomes your accountability partner, you look for someone that not only truly wants to see you succeed but someone who also is happy drilling down on you if you are not achieving what you state you intend to.


Not everyone wants an accountability partner and not everyone wants to be one, but having the right person behind you, pushing you throughout your career can have monumental impact long term when it comes to your confidence, ability, job titles, salaries etc.


Consider if one is right for you, and if so, feel free to refer back to this article whenever you need a refresher on who might be right for you.



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