Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of An Accountability Partner

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting over the weekend, next in Northern California then to Southern California for alignment sessions and Mike Ferry’s 2018 Management Retreat at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach.

As I travel from event to event and meeting to meeting, I’m reminded about the importance of being held accountable to the goals I’ve set. It’s easy to forget your goals in the often chaotic whirlwind of the everyday. Yet, it’s during those moments when you’re at your busiest that you must hold yourself accountable the most.

But how? Well, remember Discipline 4 in the 4DX system: Create a cadence of accountability. According to FranklinCovey, the business consulting firm founded on the principles of The Four Disciplines of Execution, this means, “Each team member must engage in a simple weekly process that highlights successes, analyzes failures and course-corrects as necessary, creating the ultimate performance-management system.”

As FranklinCovey explains, “The cadence of accountability is a rhythm of regular and frequent team meetings that focus on the Wildly Important Goal. These meetings happen weekly, sometimes daily. Ideally, they last no more than 20 minutes. In that brief time, team members hold each other accountable for commitments made to move the score.”

At HSF Affiliates, most—if not all—of our departments engage in regular “WIG calls.” Our team members are paired up with an accountability partner and together, these partners hold each other accountable for completing whatever it is they said they’d get done. It could be as simple as drinking eight cups of water a day or as complex as closing a deal on an exciting, new prospective affiliate. In fact, Mike Ferry was my mentor and accountability partner for many, many years. We had a weekly accountability call where I had to let him know what I accomplished every week and if any of you know Mike, you know he would not tolerate “excuse-itis.”

Not only can an accountability partner ensure you’ll meet your goals, but he or she can also be a sounding board for ideas that you might otherwise have to tackle on your own. A really great accountability partner tracks your adherence to commitments and is also there to help guide you toward success.

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor from Dominican University of California, hypothesized in a 2015 study that having an accountability partner can lead to greater productivity. Matthews recruited 267 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations and networking groups throughout the U.S., ranging in age from 23 to 72 with varied backgrounds but specific goals they wanted to achieve.

She found that 70% of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend—an accountability partner to use our lingo—reported successful goal achievement. In comparison, of those who kept their goals to themselves, only 35% reported actually seeing them through to completion. The findings produced by this study represent compelling scientific evidence to prove that in order to turn procrastination into productivity, it helps to have an accountability partner by your side.

Another reason an accountability partner is important is because he or she will celebrate your small wins, reinforcing your motivation to keep on winning. (As famed NFL Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is a habit.”)

While self-affirmation is healthy and important, sometimes it’s the encouragement of a friend and the influence of an outsider’s perspective that sets you on the right path. Great leadership doesn’t happen in isolation. It takes the support of others—and the constructive criticism—to create the kind of forward movement that allows you to consistently execute on your plans and ultimately, reach your goals.

So, what’s the message? If you don’t have one already, decide today that you’ll find an accountability partner and set up regular meetings to check in—I strongly recommend holding them daily—then be firm about the agenda you set to ensure you have a regular cadence of accountability in place. Remember, an accountability partner is just like a trainer at a gym or a business mentor; he or she is there for you 100% and is the person guiding you toward achieving your goals with confidence, motivation and speed. An accountability partner is there to confront you on your excuses and has high expectations that whatever you say you’ll do, you actually get done. Find the right partner, set your Wildly Important Goals and watch how quickly the wins that once evaded you now become that much easier to obtain. Also, stay tuned next week, where we’ll dive deeper into the accountability process …

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