Career Goals that Work-Part 4: Accountability Partners


It can be really hard to stay on track with your career goals!  Do any of these sound like familiar distractions:

  • You‘re over run with family responsibilities: kids sporting events; elder care; meal prep...
  • That big project has you working late.  
  • Your car’s in the shop, your commute just doubled.
  • Your inner critic keeps telling you you’re not good enough!
  • Your friends are out partying and you want to have fun too.  
  • You can always get it done later …but you don’t!

In my experience, for most people, the one thing they can do to stay on track is to enlist an ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER!


What is an Accountabiilty Partner?

An accountability partner is someone with whom you have an agreement to periodically report your progress towards your goals; someone with whom you can brainstorm ideas to boost your progress or to overcome obstacles.  It often works better if you can find  someone (or even a small group) who is also working towards a goal so it becomes a shared responsibility. 


Most people force themselves to get something done

when they have to report it to someone else.  


I have two walking buddies who are my defacto accountability partners for my physical fitness goals.  It’s a lot easier for me to commit to showing up when I know they’re waiting for me on a corner in the dark, early morning chill!!  We also push each other to “suck it up” and face the cold or rain rather than cancel or to pick up the pace and make one more hill before our hour’s up. 


So when you choose your accountability partner, think about someone you trust, who believes in you and understands what you are trying to accomplish and why. Find someone reliable who will support you AND challenge you; someone who radiates a positive, “can do” energy .  It could be a friend, colleague, mentor, family member, coach or peer group.


The Accountability Partner Dynamic:

For this partnership to be effective, it is important that you work with someone who understands that this is your agenda, these are your goals.  While (hopefully) you’re open to advice, ideas and differing opinions, you alone make all the decisions on how you will proceed.  This is no easy feat, especially for family and friends.  With the best of intent, and an abundance of love, they can quickly get caught up in what they think is best for you. This can put added stress on you and these relationships!  Having an accountability partner who truly understands both intellectually and emotionally that this is about you taking control of your life, will ensure a positive, supportive and successful journey. 



Remember, this is your agenda, these are your goals!



To put a finer point on this, there are times when you won’t make your goal and the circumstances are such that you absolutely need understanding, not chastisement.  There are also times when you won’t make your goals and you need someone who is not afraid to hold up the mirror and help you examine why, cutting through the excuses in a supportive manner without pouring on the guilt, judgment or “I told you sos”. In times like these having someone who can help you find a way to get back on track or to redefine your track is invaluable because it helps you stay positive and move forward.  

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Formalize Your Agreement:

Once you’ve found your partner, have a formal discussion where you address and agree on how you will work together.  It sends the signal to both of you that this is important. 


Recommended topics: 

  • Confidentiality  (Are they allowed to share your conversations with anyone?)
  • Frequency of sessions (send calendar invites).  
  • Who will initiate the meetings (I recommend you be the responsible party.)
  • Content and flow of the sessions.  This could be as simple as: 
    • Reviewing your progress on your goals (remember to celebrate successes!)
    • Brainstorming new ideas and how to overcome challenges
    • Agreeing actions for next session
  • Ask your partner, what they need to prepare?  Are verbal updates OK or do they need written updates so they can process in advance?  
  • Talk about how you best receive feedback, challenges and advice to ensure smooth communication.

A fellow coach and I recently started a two-way accountability partnership to work towards our business goals.  In setting up our partnership, we took nothing for granted and formally agreed on how we would work together (similar to the above).  In our case, we come from different technical backgrounds and we are able to share our skills and bring different perspectives to our sessions, while challenging each other to stay on track — again, with no judgement! 


I am inspired to meet or exceed my goals for our sessions every week, even if sometimes I wait until the last minute to tackle them!  As coaches, we are skilled at active listening, asking powerful questions and holding each others agendas. 


Do You Need More Support?

If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to realize your career goals in the past, an accountability partner may be just the answer for you.  You may already know someone who would be great for this role.  If not or if you enlisted an accountability partner before but it didn’t work out, you may need additional support to help you remove your blocks.  Consider investing in a certified professional coach. An accountability partner is only one role a coach plays.  Certified professional coaches work with the “entire” client.  They understand that each aspect of your life impacts the others.  They are trained to help people find their voice and get out of their own way and create a path to reach their goals.


How you do anything is how you do everything.






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