by Julia Pimsleur, author, speaker and coach, and the founder of Little Pim
Do you ever feel like you could be making more progress in your business, or like you sometimes get off track and then have trouble remembering the main things you should be focused on as you climb the entrepreneurial mountain? Do you ever wish you had someone with whom you could celebrate the big wins and who would be there to cheer you on when you hit the deep potholes?
If you said yes to any of these, then finding an accountability partner could be your solution to higher growth – and more happiness along the way. My friend and coach Bruce Eckfeldt likes to say, “Most entrepreneurs overestimate what they can get done in a day and underestimate what they can get done in a year.” That’s why having an accountability partner can help you avoid overwhelm, on the one hand, and make sure you are setting your sights high enough on the other. An accountability partner gives yououtside perspective on your goals and help you stay on track to reach them. It’s also a great free first step if you are not ready to join an entrepreneurs’ group or hire a coach, which are both proven ways of getting your business to grow faster.
How having an accountability partner helped me grow my business
In my first two years of running Little Pim, I had an accountability partner, my friend Mark Arena. Mark was working as head of communications at a multi-national bank – a far cry from entrepreneurship – but he was ambitious, willing and responsible (also funny and with a fantastic Australian accent!). We set up meetings every 30 days at which we would go over our 30, 60 and 90 day goals and ask each other where we were at, provide support, and keep each other from going off the rails. The night before we’d meet (back then by phone, but today we’d use Skype), we would email each other everything we had accomplished from our lists so we could spend our time digging deeper instead of reporting on things we’d done. Even though I was growing a language teaching company and he was managing financial PR and personal real estate investments, he was my support system for over a year and we both often refer to that time as one where we felt fully supported and made tons of progress! Aside from keeping each other accountable to our goals, we also deepened our friendship.
But don’t just take it from me. Research has shown that by holding each other accountable, we have a higher chance of success. Just look at companies like Fitbit and Weight Watchers, which have succeeded where so many others have failed. And that’s because they built in a way for people to hold each other accountable for their steps, calories, and daily progress. This keeps them on track, committed, and able to get back on the road when the temporarily swerve off.
5 easy steps to getting started with an accountability partner:
- Choose someone you trust to be your accountability partner (a fellow entrepreneur, a trusted friend, or someone who also has ambitious plans and goals. You could find them among your friends, at a Meet Up, or through a mentor)
- Share your goals and establish a meeting rhythm that works for both of you (every 30 days is standard, but do what works for you). Here’s a sample meeting agenda you can use to get started. Or, check out my handy goal-setting spreadsheet and establish yours.
- Get specific about actions you will take to meet your goals as well as how you will celebrate when you hit them. You can also have penalties if you don’t (buy the other person drinks, give to a charity, etc.).
- Decide when you will meet and put the meetings in your calendar for 6 months. You must commit! Like I always say, “If it’s not in your calendar, it’s not in your life.”
- Each meeting, revisit your goals to make sure you are still moving toward them and help each other see in your blind spots or stay on track if you get distracted by “shiny objects.”
Is this for everyone?
You might wonder who accountability partners or groups are most helpful for and whether you’re one of them! These relationships work best for people who respond well to external expectations and encouragement. Those who might not respond as well are people with a “rebel” personality who like to do the opposite of what is expected of them. Or the types who can get up at 4:00 AM to train – alone in the dark – for a triathlon. But if you think you are ten times more likely to get up at 4:00 AM if you know your friend Erica is waiting to run with you, then you would probably do well with an accountability partner!
Author and friend Gretchen Rubin (Happiness Project, Better Than Before) has done extensive research on how we respond to expectations of us and groups all tendencies into four categories: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel. She has a great Free Quiz to help you see which one you are (hint: if you are an Obliger or Upholder, having an accountability partner will be particularly effective). My Masterclass for women who are serious about scaling up their businesses has accountability partners built into it, and it’s part of why so many of them are scaling up quickly. Recent participants Janna Koretz and Robin Young could not have had less in common on paper, but turned out to be great accountability partners. Janna runs a therapeutic center in Boston and has years of psychological training and Robin is a CPA-trained, super-organized money coach from the South. As accountability partners, they were super complimentary because Robin helped Janna systematize her business and create a scalable new product to sell, and Janna helped Robin understand the psychological profile of her customers and how to market to them. Plus, they became great friends in the process! If you are looking to scale up your business and get a baked in accountability partner, you can learn more about my the upcoming Masterclass here.
Best practices for accountability partnerships
To make the most of your accountability partnership, your goals and industries don’t need to be the same but you do need to agree on a set of guidelines before you start to keep each other accountable.
Commit to regular meetings and put them in your calendar
Keeping another person and yourself accountable works best when you have routine check-ins that are mandatory. I suggest once a month, but you can create a schedule based on what works best for you and your partner. The more regular your meetings, the deeper your relationship can grow, and the more you’ll get out of having a partner. Use phone, Skype, Google Hangouts, or meet in person if you can swing it. The important thing is having regular meetings you don’t skip.
It’s gonna take mutual effort
Accountability only works when everyone involved puts in the same amount of work. It’s no good when you’re showing up with results only to find out your partner has done nothing! At each meeting, take turns writing down what you expect of each other by the next meeting. Keep it in a shared document so you can refer back to it between meetings and make sure to pull it out a few days before you meet to get those last minute items checked off the list!
No “shoulds” allowed
The ability to give and receive advice is incredibly important in accountability partnerships and it’s worth each of you reading up on how to coach peers. In my Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), we have a rule that we are not allowed to “should” on each other. This means we don’t start sentences telling someone what they should or shouldn’t do, for instance, “You should send out an email newsletter.” Instead, try “In my experience, sending out an email newsletter really helped me stay in touch with my customers.” Often it’s better to ask the person “why are you doing that?” or “why do you want that?” rather than jumping in with advice.
Stay brave and stay accountable!
Julia Pimsleur is on a mission to help one million women entrepreneurs get to $1M in revenues by 2020. Julia is an author, speaker and coach and the founder of Little Pim, one of the few women-run businesses backed by venture capital in the country. Little Pim is the leading system for introducing young children to a second language and has won 25 awards for its proprietary Entertainment Immersion Method®. Its products are sold in 22 countries. Julia has raised a combined $26 million in non-profit and for-profit dollars. She wrote “Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big” to help women learn to raise capital and take their businesses further, faster.
More articles by Julia...