I never did any exercise until I hired a personal trainer. BK (or “Before Karen” – that’s my trainer), I deluded myself into thinking that my health was under control and that I didn’t need to watch what I ate or do any exercise. AK (“After Karen”), it all changed.
That’s why an accountability partner is an excellent idea – in life and in business. According to the American Society of Training and Development, you have a 95% chance of achieving your goals if you have a specific accountability appointment with the person committed to, compared with much lower percentages for committing to someone else that you will do it (65%) or planning to do it (50%).
When it comes to business, it’s easy (and common) for business owners to delude themselves in similar ways. Many business owners (me included!) are borderline control freaks, so they don’t easily let others peak inside their business, with its warts and imperfections. But finding a trusted ‘someone’ to challenge you and keep you honest in some key areas can really transform your business.
Ways an accountability partner can help
1. A sounding board for strategic thinking and planning
Owning a business can sometimes feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. And in a way, it is. You are ultimately accountable for meeting the needs and expectations of a lot of people, including staff, clients, suppliers. It can be overwhelming!
That’s why creating a business strategy can be pretty stressful for many business owners. Having someone to bounce around your strategic ideas and plans can be a great way to alleviate some of that stress. The right accountability partner can open your thinking to new possibilities and help you see things in a different light. They can challenge some of your (maybe not so sound) plans and even motivate you if you are too risk-averse.
2. Assist in decision-making
A long time ago I learned to make lists – pros and cons of a particular decision, should I/shouldn’t I… you get the gist. But how many times have you gone through this thinking and still found you can’t make up your mind?
A good accountability partner can help you distill the options, raise points that you hadn’t considered, and reflect your own thoughts back to you. Sometimes, this can be all you need to make those big decisions with more conviction and purpose.
3. Help us estimate work effort more realistically
For those of us who specialise in project-based services, accurate project estimation is a key part of provide quality services and setting accurate expectations with the client, service providers and any other parties with whom you are working. There’s nothing worse than estimating a project will take a month and it actually takes 4!
Sounds extreme but I bet most people could cite such an example. This is a great video that provides some intelligent ways to more accurately estimate work effort, and having an accountability partner is a key one of them.
4. Reduce feelings of isolation
Just having someone to talk to about your business can greatly reduce feelings of isolation and that sense of overwhelm I mentioned earlier. This was probably the biggest eye opener for me when I started my business – I simply didn’t count on feeling so isolated. Everything changed once I connected with peers and networking groups, learned to ask for advice and simply opened myself up to discussing my business plans and decisions with other business owners that I trusted.
Qualities of a good accountability partner
So let’s say I’ve sold you on the idea of an accountability partner. What are the qualities to look for when choosing this trusted person?
- Well, they should be trustworthy. Obvious. You could potentially be telling them secrets about your business so be careful who you let into your inner circle.
- They should have some subject matter expertise or experience in the areas where you are seeking guidance and support. There’s no point asking your mum to help you with your business strategy if she’s never run a business before.
- They should have the time and willingness to provide the support you are seeking from them.
- They should demonstrate values that align with yours. Trust is one of them, but other values may include maintaining high integrity and character above profit for profit’s sake, or perhaps high client service ideals.
It is your decision who to choose for this valuable role. You may choose to use more than one accountability partner for different aspects of your business and some of them may be specialists in their field. Whatever you do, I strongly suggest you do your due diligence and take your time selecting the right person(s) for the job.
Who to choose
So you now know what an accountability partner can help us with and the qualities of such a person. But where can we find them? Here are some suggestions:
- Network with other business owners who have achieved success;
- Join company directors associations where you have access to experienced professionals;
- Join a mentoring or coaching program;
- Talk to friends and family who’ve achieved success in their business and who you relate to or share similar goals and values; or
- Appoint a specialist or consultant to provide direction, coaching and mentoring in a specific area.
Keeping on course to achieving our goals can be a hard slog if you are doing it alone. The chance of losing your way, stagnating or completely giving up is greatly reduced by having an accountability partner. They can keep you on track, push you when you need it, reign you in when you need it, and ultimately help your business succeed.
* Image sourced from Unsplash.
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About the Author: Angeline Zaghloul is an expert in business strategy, client management and business processes, and is the Principal of Peer Business Consulting, a Sydney-based consultancy providing strategy and operations support to startups and SMEs. Angeline also publishes a weekly blog which provides research, advice and tips on key issues facing businesses.