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Importance of Accountability Partners in Goal Achievement

Studies have shown that people that share their goals with others tend to achieve their goals at a higher level. According to one study done by The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), now, the Association for Talent Development (ATD), found that people that commit to achieving a goal to someone have a 65% chance of achieving that goal, much higher than without that commitment. In addition, people that consistently meet with that person they've committed to specifically discuss their progress increase their chances of achieving their goals to a whopping 95%.

However, one study that appeared in the August 2019 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology found that it is a particular type of person that people must share their goals with in order to achieve their goals at a higher level. Lead researcher Howard Klein from Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business said "If you don't care about the opinion of whom you tell, it doesn't affect your desire to persist - which is really what goal commitment is all about. You want to be dedicated and unwilling to give up on our goal, which more likely when you share that goal with someone you look up to." In other words, if you don't respect the person that you share your goal with, it won't have any material impact on your achievement of that goal. That suggests that it is a fear of disappointing that person that you hold in high esteem that keeps you motivated to achieve that goal.

What is an accountability partner

An accountability partner(s) is someone or a group of people that you make aware of your specific goals and action plan, and you come to an agreement with them that they will help ensure you that stick to that action plan focus on achieving your goal. They can also serve as a sounding board when you encounter obstacles, and they can be your cheerleader when you achieve success. Some of the types of people that can serve as your mentor depending on what your needs are:

  • Mentor

  • Peer

  • Life Coach

  • Personal Trainer

  • Training Partner

Which one is most appropriate is going depend on what type of goal you are looking to achieve and what you're specifically looking to get out of your accountability partner.

How you should work with one

In order to set yourself up to succeed with your accountability partner, you should create some guidelines up for both of you (or all of you if you have more than one accountability partner):

  1. If you're going to use a Peer-to-Peer accountability partner (instead of mentor for instance), try to pick someone that is in a very similar situation to you and pursuing a similar goal. As an example, I'm in Startup School, a free program for entrepreneurs run by the famous program, Y Combinator. They run group sessions that are basically accountability groups. All the students are grouped into 3 groups: entrepreneurs that don't yet have a product, entrepreneurs that have launched products but don't yet have meaningful sales, and entrepreneurs that have achieved a level of traction. Since we are literally weeks from launching our app, I'm in the first group. What I found were the issues and obstacles that members of the group sessions I was in was very different than what I was experiencing. They were still figuring what their product was and trying to validate it. I had done those things already so I didn't find it as valuable to me to be in an accountability group with entrepreneurs that we struggling with those things so I made the strategic decision to wait until we launched our product to start participating in these group sessions again to maximize the value I would get out of them.

  2. Set a specific recurring time and place to meet with your accountability partner. This will keep the relationship structured and focused. Having the relationship opened ended does not create the "urgency" and seriousness that is required to ensure that both you and your accountability partner stay on task.

  3. Keep the scope of your meetings very narrow. I would have a set agenda for the recurring meeting. It could be something like: "Did we achieve what we committed to from the previous meeting>?", "If yes, what worked?", "If not, why not?", and finally, "What are our goals for next week?". You can customize that based on your own needs, but those basic items are probably a good foundation to build upon.

If you haven't already, make sure you go out and set your SMART goals, break those goals up into smaller pieces. After that, make sure you find yourself a good accountability partner. Share with us what your results are. We'd love to hear.

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