Should You Consider an Accountability Partner?

Doug Robinson

Friday, January 17th, 2014

When people, especially salespeople, are left to their own devices, they lack consistency and succumb to their own emotional performance roller coaster, operating more by default than by design. Hence, consider bringing in an accountability partner. 

Those two words are often associated with a pair of Christian men or women who commit to help one another live up to certain moral standards. That’s awesome, but not what I am chirping about today. I’m advocating this relationship to salespeople and entrepreneurs, and would define this role as simply someone that helps another stay on track with their goals.

Deep down we need and desire others to weigh in on our actions, at least confirming what we already know, so why not find somebody for that role where both parties can benefit and stay on track? Fine, what should I look for on an accountability partner’s resume, to insure I’m not just choosing an agreeable friend to rubber stamp everything I say or propose?

In her book, The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success (Jossey-Bass, 2009) author Linda Galindo says accountability partners are an entrepreneur's secret weapon for quick growth. "Working with a partner prevents the ready-fire-aim approach that a lot of entrepreneurs use," she says. (I, Doug, would include salespeople and sales managers alongside the entrepreneurs)

While being nimble is admirable, important business decisions are best made by vetting ideas and thinking things through. An accountability partner can help you identify weaknesses in your business, make plans to overcome them and hold you accountable for action.

Galindo says finding the right partner is the key to your success. She offers four tips for finding a good match and maximizing the relationship:

1. Look outside of your industry

Galindo suggests choosing a businessperson who lives in your community, as in-person meetings can strengthen your relationship. Look for potential partners at events such as Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club meetings, or through networking groups. It can be helpful to find someone outside your field because they will provide fresh thoughts about your industry.

2. Choose someone who will be (brutally) honest with you

The most important quality in an accountability partner is that they're straightforward, says Galindo. "You're not looking for someone who will rescue, fix or save you," she says. "You want someone who will hold you accountable." I, (Doug) would add that if you are dragging your feet, your partner has a responsibility to kick you in the butt!

It's also important to know your strengths and weaknesses when entering an accountability partnership. "You're looking for someone who has the qualities you lack," Galindo says. A partnership means you’ll be giving back. Identify your strengths that might be helpful to your partner, and make sure you’re willing to provide constructive feedback even when it's uncomfortable to share.

3. Be clear concerning your expectations

Before you get started, be clear about parameters. There are times you want input and times you just need someone to listen; spell this out from the jump. To ensure your arrangement is mutually beneficial, allot an equal amount of time to spend brainstorming and discussing each partner’s business. Decide how often you will connect and whether it will be in person, over the phone/video chat or by email. Plan how many projects and commitments you're willing to discuss at a time. And be clear that whether or not you take your partner’s advice, each person is 100% responsible for their own choices.

4. Agree on consequences

Finally, Galindo says accountability partners need to hold each other to consequences if commitments go uncompleted. Whether there is a financial risk, e.g. you owe me $500 if you don't complete your goal; or simply having to admit that you fell short, consequences keep partners motivated and engaged, says Galindo.

"We all can find a million excuses to not do what we say we're going to do," says Galindo. "An accountability partner keeps you on track and helps you move your business forward."

I, (Doug), agree with Ms. Galindo’s assessments, and in addition would add three additional criteria; 

A Servant’s Heart:  Both must want the very best for their partner. Desiring to do everything possible to help them stay on task is very important. Partners respond better if they are genuinely interested and have a desire for their success.

Non-judgmental: It is not the role of an AP to make judgments about his/her partner. Being judged always de-motivates and acts as a wet blanket.

Time Guarantee: And finally, when establishing a partnership, be sure to commit for at least 3 months.  No end date will cause a loss of momentum and eventually quitting the partnership. If you really click for each other, you can always renew your commitment for another time period when the initial period expires.

Why not take a moment and comment below, sharing your thoughts about accountability partnerships.

If you like this article, why not subscribe to my FREE newsletter (blog)  HYPERLINK here. It will come to your email inbox, just like the CEO Newsletter does. My posts are very relevant to anybody who sells for a living, works in customer service, or is involved in sales management. Why not also recommend it to colleagues and friends, especially since it is FREE?  Once you subscribe, feel free to read the posts you’ve missed by clicking here, as all of them are archived for easy access.