Most people will agree that ongoing professional growth and development is important. That said, most people also know it can be quite challenging to establish new skills and behaviours. Competing priorities make it hard to focus, motivation comes in fits and starts, and there just never seems to be enough time.
There is a great way to improve your chances of working on your development—and that’s to enlist an accountability partner. What is an accountability partner? It is a neutral and supportive person who helps you stay on track with your development.
Time and again, it’s been shown that people are more successful when accountability measures are built into any self-development program. We just do better when we have support. An accountability partner can make the difference between someone who succeeds in their development and someone who loses focus.
So what could you achieve with an accountability partner in your corner? It could help you:
• Figure out what and who you want to be when you grow up. So many people are not fulfilled professionally and really have no idea what professional fulfilment might look like for them. An accountability partner can help you determine what makes you tick. Why is this important? Someone once said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But in order to choose a job you love, you first need to figure out what you are all about and what that job would look like.
You and your accountability partner can come up with questions to answer for clarification about who you are and what you want—such as What do I value? What matters to me? What’s interesting to me? What motivates me? What’s important to me professionally? It’s surprising how rarely people ask themselves these kinds of questions. Many seem to think they aren’t worthy of finding a job that honours their values or is interesting. An accountability partner can help them see not only that they are worthy, but that answering these questions can be integral to their well-being, given that work is such a huge part of life.
• Expand your options. When left to our own devices, most of us tend to see ourselves in a very limited manner. In other words, we aren’t very good at seeing our lives from multiple perspectives. We might think “I can’t figure out what I want professionally, I’m too busy making a living,” or “Who am I to think that I can do what I love?” An accountability partner probably won’t have those same limiting beliefs about you. They can get you to suspend reality for a time and dream dreams that may be big, but are also obtainable with some elbow grease. Often when brainstorming with others, we come up with ideas that may seem crazy but are actually seeds of brilliance. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has told me their professional dream and then immediately said it was unattainable—whereas from my perspective, their goal was not at all farfetched; it was, in fact, quite doable.
• Figure out where you go from here. Let’s say you did find answers to the questions above, and you suspended your self doubt at least for the time being. Now what? How does one make their hopes and dreams actionable? On your own, it can be challenging to figure out a course of action. But brainstorming potential actions with someone else can often spark big ideas you might not even have considered by yourself.
• Recognise accomplishments along the way. We often don’t recognise our own incremental changes—when we make progress and close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. But someone else can see our progress more clearly, help us recognise it, and keep us moving forward.
• Keep going when the going gets tough. Having a cheerleader is a very powerful thing—especially if it’s someone who will encourage you to take risks and do things that are uncomfortable. We’re much more likely to challenge ourselves when we have someone watching from the sidelines. Sometimes we will stumble, but we tend to get up much quicker when there’s somebody saying “Come on, keep trying—I believe in you.”
So where do you find an accountability partner? It could be your boss, a coworker, or a friend—or you could enlist the help of a professional business coach whose stock and trade is being an accountability partner. Many people have experienced how a professional coach has helped them by leaps and bounds.
Where you find your accountability partner doesn’t matter as much as getting someone in your corner to maximise results for you—or maybe your direct reports. You don’t have to go it alone!
About the author:
Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.