Almost everyone I coach is a solopreneur or the leader of a small, mostly outsourced, business. It’s a lonely world. In the beginning the new found solitude is usually a relief, especially for folks who come out of corporate. ”I have no one to bother me, no one to answer to, I am getting so much done!” This solitude high usually starts to dissipate after about 18 months. That’s when it’s time to start looking for an accountability partner.
You need a brainstorming partner. You need someone to nag you when your resistance is blocking your way forward. You need someone to commiserate with when things don’t work out as planned. Most of all, you need someone who will tell you how awesome you are. Someone who wil say those magic words, “Don’t give up!”
Most people don’t even know where to start looking for an accountability partner or how to set up the relationship. Here’s some tips that have worked for my clients.
1. You must like each other. Don’t gravitate toward someone that you don’t already know pretty well. This person will be listening to some of your deepest darkest dilemmas (see how I did that?) and your most annoying whining. Make sure you like and respect them but don’t have a business relationship with them.
2. They must be someone on your level and stage of business development. If you are looking for an accountability partner who has a lot more experience and expertise than you, you should go get a coach. If you choose your cousin Millie who just started her own business and likes to chat, you won’t get much done and you will start to feel resentful. An accountability partnership should be a true “give and take” relationship. Be honest with yourself.
3. Make it someone from a different industry. Listen, business is business. Just because you are a graphic designer and he is in real-estate, it doesn’t mean you can’t be fantastic accountability partners. If you choose someone from the same industry and background you may get trapped in the “this is the way it’s done” prison. This is never the way it’s done. When you choose someone from a different industry you may just come across some insights that will help you shake up yours. Can I say that again so that you can think about it… This is never the way it’s done.
1. A fixed schedule. Meet once a week, once a month, once a quarter - whatever works for both of you. Make it a fixed schedule and treat the appointment with respect. Not only do you need to respect your partner’s schedule but you also need to make this relationship a priority for it to work.
2. Come prepared. It’s not your partners job to figure out what you need help with. Make a list of topics that you will discuss during your allotted time.
3. Make commitments. Tell your partner what you are going to do and then follow-up with a commitment email.
4. Follow-Up. Just as you have made commitments to your partner they will have made commitments to you. Follow-up with them between meetings with encouraging emails or texts. “Just reminding you that you only have 5 more pages to write before next week. Keep going you're doing great!”
A strong accountability partner relationship can take you from feeling stranded alone in a boat on a rough sea, to feeling grounded, supported and inspired.
Do you have an accountability partner? Any more tips? Share in the comments below.
*Photo by Purple Sherbet Photography