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Accountability Partnership Q&A

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Many readers expressed an interest in knowing more about my accountability partnership, so here’s a follow-up to my previous posts, answering the questions that were raised.

Q: Is an accountability partner the same as a business coach?

A: I don’t think so. While they have similarities, I look at the relationships in a different way.

  • I plan to always have an accountability partner. A coach would be a shorter-term solution to help me fine-tune certain areas of my business or work through a specific problem. I personally would be very selective, hire a highly-qualified and highly-recommended coach who is trained in the area I need help with, and pay probably very good money for that person’s help. For me, the difference is like a personal trainer versus a physician in a particular specialty.
  • It’s much easier to develop a dependency on a coach, especially if you work with someone who doesn’t have a set way of weening you away from him or her. An accountability partnership is more give and take. My partner and I are very much independent of each other, and that’s very important for our individual success.
  • We’re not expecting anything from the other person. When my accountability partner and I began our relationship, we were navigating the waters of business together. If this makes sense, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and that was an important part of learning how to succeed. We’re unique, and we have different businesses and different goals for our lives. There’s no cookie-cutter answer to most of our problems. Along the way, we’ve experimented with marketing, productivity, and a whole variety of other issues in our businesses, and we needed that experimentation so that we could figure out our own unique way of doing things. The lessons come from experiencing it all and figuring out what works for each of us. We don’t have to be well-trained in any particular area, and I personally think it has been helpful to us both that we’re not.

Q: Can my accountability partner be a friend or family member?

A: I personally wouldn’t recommend it. Here’s why.

  • They have a vested interest in your success. If they’re immediate family, they not only want you to succeed, they need you to succeed. An accountability partner can be objective and see the forest in spite of the trees, which might be hard for your family and friends to do at times.
  • They’re not going to be able to handle you failing. If they see you struggling, they’re going to tell you to get a “real job” and let go of the “pipe dream.” It’s only natural. They want to see you happy and doing well. An accountability partner who has experience in business will know that failing comes with the territory, and if you are missing your mark, the plan just needs to be rejigged a bit, or you just need to stick with it a bit longer.
  • They have preconceived ideas about who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you want. Like my accountability partner mentioned in the comments of a previous post, your family and friends see you a certain way, and a lot of that is influenced by history. Maybe you’re different, or maybe you want to be different. Your accountability partner can see through that to what you are now.
  • It adds too much stress to the relationship. There are going to be many times when you’re struggling and frustrated, and your family might become frustrated with you if that’s all you talk about.
  • It causes the relationship to become one-dimensional. It’s so easy to become obsessed over a business, and if you think about it and talk about it 24/7, other interests might take a back seat. You need a variety of relationships and interests to feel balanced and to get away from business sometimes.
  • If they’re not interested in business, it can be frustrating for both of you. If the person has zero interest in business, they’re not going to want to hear about your business woes incessantly. That will drive them nuts, and if they appear to be disinterested or bored or aggravated by your never-ending business conversation, you’re going to feel like they don’t care about something that’s very important to you.
  • They can have their own agenda. If the business causes your life to change in a way that doesn’t support the plans of the other person, he or she might not be as objective with advice.

Q: Should the person have experience in business?

A: Yes, even if only a few years. Although the person doesn’t need to be a trained coach or specifically qualified in any particular area of business, he or she needs to have an understanding of how to run one, even if it’s not perfectly done. Someone with absolutely zero experience won’t even know where to start, so unless you’re both at that stage of the game, an unhealthy dependency can be created on the other person’s part, and you won’t find much value in the relationship.

Q: How do I start my accountability partnership?

A: Find other business owners around you who inspire you and who you have a comfortable connection with. See if they would be interested in creating a partnership for a trial period of three to six months.

Q: How should we approach the accountability calls?

A: Keep it simple. Start by having weekly or twice-monthly calls. For each call, let your partner know:

  • What you’ve accomplished since your last call (big rocks moved),
  • What you intend to accomplish by the next call (big rocks to be moved), and
  • What you need to discuss with him or her (areas of struggle/setback).

I know there are probably many other questions, so consider this an open thread and ask away. I’ll respond as quickly as possible around the holidays.

Image from Flickr by malias

12 Responses to “Accountability Partnership Q&A”

  1. Hi, Amber. I was cleaning out my desk this week and found an email I had printed out from you after our very first conversation. The date was 12/26/2006. So happy anniversary, partner!

    You make some really great points here. One thing I would add about finding a good accountability partner is knowing what you have to offer and what kind of help you need. For instance, you and I have different strengths, and I think this is what helps us be productive for each other. If we were both really good at the same kind of things, it would be hard to move ahead because we would have the same perspective on things.

    So my 2 cents is to take a personal inventory of your skills and talents and think about the kind of person you want to round that out. Once you know what you’re looking for, it is a lot easier to find it and a lot easier to pitch the benefits of the relationship to that other person.

    • Hi, Susan. If you’re getting an accountability partner over a coach, it might not be necessary to pay a fee, since you would be an accountability partner to the other person as well (essentially exchanging). I would find someone who is interested in having an accountability partner himself/herself so that you are both approaching the relationship with the same intent.