Accountability partnerships are one of the most popular goal-setting strategies. Knowing that we will check in with someone who is emotionally and energetically invested in our success keeps us on track, even when things get hard. 

Accountability Groups Versus Accountability Partners

Accountability comes in different shapes and sizes, and are not mutually exclusive.

Partnerships are most effective when you know exactly what you need to do. Coaches can often provide consistent accountability, along with worksheets that allow you to track progress on a specific goal. 

Groups bring together individuals who may be in the same industry, or have similar goals. There is often a group leader who coordinates the calls/meetings. Members provide guidance on goals in a structured environment.

5 Steps to Ensuring Successful Accountability

Selecting your accountability system requires a thoughtful, strategic approach. 

1: Know what you need.

Accountability must be tied to specific outcomes. We can't reach our destination if we don't know where we are going. 

2. Make it a priority.

When committing to an accountability relationship, it's not just about you. It's about your partner or group members. It's important to establish and honor a structure.

I've been in a quarterly mastermind group for many years, and we established a core values system that defines how we show up for one another. One of our requirements is to show up in person, and to make our meetings a priority - meaning we don't miss a meeting unless it's essential. In a group setting, inputs from all members matters. If one person doesn't prioritize the group, it impacts the outcomes for everyone. 

In a partnership, if one partner frequently asks to change the time, or comes to the meeting unprepared, it shows a lack of respect for the partner. 

3: Use a custom tracking system.

For my own accountability partnerships, for my clients that want strong structure, and for the groups we have established in the Women's CEO Roundtable program that I facilitate, I use 3 different types of tools: a daily worksheet, a weekly worksheet, and a quarterly goal setting worksheet. 

4: Prioritize your goal-setting activities.

It's great that you have goals, but execution is what matters. For accountability to work, you must prioritize your goal-setting activities. Tactical execution of a strategic outcome is the secret to goal-setting. 

5: Choose your partner or group wisely - making sure it works for you.

Picking the right support system will determine your accountability success. If we need guidance/advice from our accountability partner or group - beyond just accountability, we must select people that are qualified to guide us, and perhaps have had experience accomplishing the goals we have set for ourselves. Then, they will understand the challenges we are facing, and can empathize with our situation.

For partnerships, you must select someone who is as committed as you are, has similar values, can be available when you are available, and is genuinely interested in helping you succeed. In addition, they must communicate in a way that is similar to you, and you must trust that they have your best interests at heart. 

2 Ways To Ruin Your Accountability Group or Partnership

An accountability relationship always feels good in the beginning - just like dating. It's new, it's filled with anticipation of what's to come, it's a priority, and you're "all in."  To keep commitment and engagement high, avoid these two pitfalls.

De-prioritize it.

Comfort leads to complacency. As soon as your accountability falls off your priority list, you owe it to yourself and your group or partner to own that. Life sometimes gets in the way and derails us from moving forward. If this is happening, have the conversation about it. Otherwise, those that have come to depend on you will be disappointed, and resentment will creep in. 

It's always best to be honest when you want to disengage, rather than trying to fake your way through your commitment. 

Bring judgement and lack of empathy to your accountability structure.

A friend recently had a bad accountability experience. She had set a deadline to complete a large, complex task - something she never accomplished before - and she didn't make the deadline. The response from her group members was unsupportive and judgmental.

Her inability to meet her deadline was not due to lack of effort. Circumstances changed, and unexpected obstacles beyond her control emerged. She hasn't changed her goal, but her timeline extended. 

Because of her group's reaction, her accountability group shifted from being a safe place to being a place of non-support. Whether she'll continue with this group remains to be seen.

As the African proverb says, "if you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together." These strategies will help you establish the accountability structure that delivers you great success.