Who holds you accountable? If you’re like most people, the answer is nobody. Correct that, most people hold themselves accountable, which is just another way of saying nobody.
After seven years of leadership coaching, and 41 years of living, I’ve learned that human beings are very bad at holding themselves accountable to accomplishing long-term goals.
1. We don’t really understand accountability.
Most people think accountability has something to do with punishment and consequences. While those do have their place, they are only a small part of the overall picture.
Accountability means measurement and feedback. To hold someone accountable means to check in with them to see how they are progressing towards their goal and to solicit and offer feedback that will help them do better and help them stay on track. It’s nearly impossible to do this for yourself.
2. We let ourselves off the hook.
Face it, you fall for your own excuses. Maybe you just didn’t have time to get the work done this week because you were soooooo busy. Or maybe, you were tired, or sick, or distracted. Those are all valid reasons for not moving your goal forward, or at least that’s what you tell yourself in your moment of weakness.
Unless there’s somebody else who knows what you committed to, and who is going to check in to see how it went, you’re not likely to get the job done.
3. We hit walls from time to time.
If you’ve set sufficiently difficult goals for yourself, it’s not going to be a smooth path. You are going to fall down, you will get frustrated, you will doubt whether or not you have what it takes to hit your goal, and you will flirt with the idea of quitting.
When this happens, you need someone who knows your goals, knows where you are struggling, and knows how to help you get unstuck. No matter how many inspirational videos you watch on YouTube, just wanting it bad enough isn’t enough.
Sometimes you have to change your strategy, or even change your goal to reflect the changes in your environment. As Charles Darwin noted, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.
If you have somebody else holding you accountable, you are much more likely to see the need to adapt, and to actually make the right changes.
How to find an accountabilibuddy
If you buy in to the idea that you are more successful when you are held accountable, here are a few tips for finding an “accountabilibuddy.”
1. Choose someone you respect and trust.
You are going to talk with this person about your dreams, your struggles, your fears, your successes, and everything else that happens on the way to your goal.
Find someone you trust enough for you to be honest about what’s holding you back and what’s freaking you out. Find someone you respect enough for you to listen to their negative feedback when they give it. Is there a coworker who you admire, or someone in your family or your community you look up to? Those people make great accountabilibuddies.
2. Choose someone who is willing to see through your excuses.
You need a partner with the confidence and the compassion to call you on your BS when you make excuses about why you are stuck or off-track.
The best accountabilibuddies, are people who thrive on, or at least who don’t avoid, uncomfortable conversations. Often, this means someone who cares enough to offer tough love when you are struggling.
3. Choose someone who is not a rescuer.
The whole point of accountability is to support YOU in doing the work. So, the last thing you need is someone who is going to step in and do the work for you when the going gets tough. This is one reason that family members, and especially spouses make bad accountabilibuddies. They are so emotionally tied to your success that they are likely to swoop in and save the day when you struggle.
You need accountability and empowerment, not someone to enable your bad behavior by just doing it for you.
4. Choose someone who wants accountability too.
The best accountabilibuddies, outside of paid coaches and consultants, are people who want accountability from you too.
You can learn a lot by holding someone else accountable. You will get to see how they set goals, how they plan, and how they overcome obstacles. You will also get to encourage them when they are down, and remind them of why their goals are important when they consider giving up.
You can learn a lot about accomplishing big goals by holding someone accountable who has big goals…whether they hit them or not. In addition, if you are both providing accountability, there is a nice balance of power and both of you are more likely to continue showing up for the meetings.
So there you have it. You need someone else to hold you accountable and now you have a good idea of how to pick them out. Now go do something about it. Don’t let the lack of accountability be the reason that you fail to hit your big goals this year.