Accountability is not about blame, and it is not about someone policing your business, rather it is about . . .

Support, encouragement, and focus.

Several years ago, I discovered an organization called Make-It-Fly.  The purpose of the organization was to help small businesses grow in a supportive and confidential environment.  With a combination of education, skill development, goal setting, networking, and interactive Small Business Advisory Boards, entrepreneurs were given resources for business development and expansion.

One of the greatest strengths of this organization was its process of accountability.

I confess that at first I was a bit resistant.  I didn’t want anyone holding my feet to the fire, telling what to do, or pointing out what I wasn’t accomplishing.  My instinctive response came from a childhood, primitive fear of being shamed or punished.

With reservations, I agreed to participate.  I found that accountability was one of the most powerful processes for gaining momentum, staying on task, and reaching my goals.  The key was that the accountability occurred in a confidential, committed, honest, supportive, affirming, creative, interactive environment.  I’ve had some amazing accountability partners over the years.

To be effective, accountability partnership requires the following elements:

  1. Ownership of the task. Recognizing that accountability can supercharge a business when executed well, fully owning and committing to the process produces cumulative results.  Half-baked participation produces half-baked results.
  2. Self leadership. Being proud of your business and taking full responsibility for process and outcome is empowering.
  3. Effective written goals. Writing clear, measurable goals is a system for staying focused – clarifying the desired outcome, developing a strategy, identifying obstacles, and setting these on a realistic timeline. Create additional rewards for success beside the satisfaction of reaching the goal.  I have a colleague who rewards himself with new shirts as he reaches goals.  He has a lot of shirts.
  4. Freedom. There must be flexibility in the process to adapt to the changing needs and unexpected obstacles in the business and in the partnership. Flexibility is having the capacity to effectively alter course while maintaining accountability.
  5. Frequency of check in. We tend to perform better when we know someone cares, is watching, and is expecting us to provide progress updates.
  6. Effective measurement. Accountability helps a business owner measure progress, not in terms of pass/fail, but rather through percentage of goals completed. Success is as much about process as it is about destination.  Rather than saying, “I didn’t reach my goal.” better to say, “I reached my goal with 80% success.”
  7. Courage. Partners need to have the courage to say, “I didn’t get it done.” No bull shit. No pretending. No justifying. No rationalizing. Just the acknowledgment that it didn’t go as planned and a willingness to reset and move on.
  8. Support. Knowing that an accountability partner is a phone call, email, or text away helps to get through the rough spots. It means you trust that your partner is genuinely available to come alongside, as needed. Everyone needs a cheerleader.