5 Ingredients for Successful Accountability

About a month ago, I read a post by Justin Kownacki that discussed the challenges inherent in being a freelancer and why we need people we’re not in business with to hold us accountable.

As someone who’s self-employed, you’ll inevitably face bouts of crappy productivity and you’ll feel like banging your head against a wall. In my own life, those times generally occur when I let others set my priorities for me. When that happens, I’m extremely busy but not necessarily effective. The goal then is to proactively set your priorities and let the rest fall where it may.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. So I took Kownacki’s advice and contacted a friend of mine (Justin Davis) who lives in the area and asked if he wanted to meet every Monday for coffee to set goals, challenge each other and provide a level of business accountability.

Thankfully he agreed and the experience has been more beneficial than I could have imagined. I really enjoy and look forward to this time each week – a sure sign that it’s working. Not to mention you’re reading this post because he forced me to get back on track with my blogging.

Here are five modifications we’ve made to Kownacki’s accountability idea and why they’ve been important in our success.

Share the Same Core Values

I can’t stress how important it’s been for us that we share certain core values. Now, you don’t need to be clones of one another. In fact, you shouldn’t be. You want differing opinions and approaches. However, you want to know the advice your getting is generally going to be aligned with your beliefs about life and business. I don’t want someone who’s a workaholic giving me advice on my work/life balance.

Be On the Same Level

I think mentors are great. Everyone should have at least one mentor in their life. However, this is not that. This is accountability. This is learning from and pushing each other while in the trenches. Justin is not my mentor and I am not his. We each give and take advice equally in our meetings. We banter, dialogue and share victories and frustrations without getting preachy. Neither of us want to be the teacher or the student during this time.

Don’t Rush the Meeting

Originally, I proposed an hour for the meeting “to be respectful of time.” To my surprise, Justin suggested two hours. It was a great suggestion. We generally only spend about 15-20 minutes reviewing and discussing our goals. The rest of the time is spent sharing and encouraging each other. The extra time allows us to fully explore topics without feeling pressured to cut it short. As is usually the case, the most insightful and impacting parts of the conversation occur beyond the 1-hour mark as the conversation builds on itself. It’s like an avalanche. What starts small builds into something powerful.

This is Not Water Cooler Time

If you want to talk about your favorite sports team or American Idol, go somewhere else. The entire point of this time is to talk about business. That’s it. If you’re self-employed, there will always be plenty to discuss. You’ll always have challenges. You’ll always have opportunities. Be willing to refocus the conversation if a tangent forms.

Learn Together

In the second meeting, Justin and I decided to read a book together and discuss how to apply what we’re reading. The reading plan isn’t intense – a chapter a week. We’re focused on depth. We each respond to different things in the book and we’ve found ways to help each other as a result. Rotate who picks the book each time as you’ll likely learn something new as a result.

Bonus Thought: Be About Each Other’s Success

As I was wrapping up, I thought of this last point. This time isn’t about what I can get out of it. It’s about what I can give. I want to help Justin and he wants to help me. We share ideas. We want to help each others’ businesses grow. This isn’t a zero-sum game. If anyone in the group can’t be excited and supportive of another’s success, give them the boot. I don’t want that negativity and unhealthy competition in my life. Cheer each other on and celebrate each other’s victories.

We’ve discussed bringing others into the meeting. Whether we do or not hasn’t been decided. Neither of us want it to get diluted and any additions have to be 100% agreed on. The small size allows for intense focus. However, another person or two could add benefit through additional perspectives, backgrounds and connections without having to sacrifice much.

Questions: Do you have people to keep you accountable? If so, share in the comments what works. If not, what’s holding you back?