High on my list of words that are trendy right now that I detest is the word ‘tribe’. Call me a snob (snob!), but I don’t like the primal, wild, chasing bison with spears, image that it brings to mind. It takes me back to my elementary school years when we still called Native Americans ‘Indians’ and they spoke broken English and lived in tribes (not that there’s anything wrong with that…it’s the inelegance ‘tribe’ implies I don’t like).
That’s what comes to mind, for me.
But now the hipsters like to use the word ‘tribe’ to describe a group of people that you feel most at home with. For some reason the word ‘friends’ – or ‘community’ – is not right, and ‘tribe’ is used to denote a wider group – so maybe not friends but closer than community… something like that.
Why am I rambling on about this? Because, with the above as context, I hate to admit that a big positive influence in my life has come through something I learned in a tribe, and that is the concept of an ‘Accountability Buddy’.
What’s An Accountability Buddy?
Back in the 90s, in the dot.com bubble, the term ‘accountability partner’ first came up in a business context. Before that the term was used mostly by American Christians as someone who would stop you from doing things you weren’t supposed to, like watching porn, drinking or coveting.
We all realize that we are accountable to God, but how often has that thought entered your mind while surfing porn sites?
But in the business sense, this phrase took on a different meaning.
Here’s what we mean when we say Accountability Partner (or Buddy) in the business sense
An accountability partner is a business peer who helps you grow your company by offering guidance and by holding you to your commitments. While it’s similar to a mentor relationship, both partners work on bettering their businesses with the feedback and support of each other.
Sadly, rarely is porn involved.
An accountability partner does not have to be in your same industry (actually, I find it much better if they are not). I personally also prefer to have a female accountability buddy (men are such assholes) because there is usually much more honesty and a lot less chit chat. It has to be someone you are comfortable with, because they are going to be hearing your insecurities about your business.
How To Work With An Accountability Buddy
For me, the best schedule seems to be to meet up – usually on Skype or some such thing – every couple of weeks. I find I can’t get anything done in a shorter time than that because I have too many fingers in too many pies.
So, you hook up every couple of weeks and chat for about 30 – 45 minutes. This is how it usually goes:
1. Cover the action items from the last call
At the end of every call you should both set out some actionable items for the next couple of weeks. Stuff like writing a blog post (done!), speccing out a software feature, contacting x number of people about your business, etc etc.
If it’s your first call (look at you, all accountabilitising!) then the first part of the call should be a brief business state of the union, outlining what you’re working on, and what you’re hoping to achieve. Honesty is the name of the Accountability Buddy game. So, if you are a bullshit artist be prepared for pain!
2. Explore possibilities
After you get to know each other a little, a good accountability buddy will pick up on things in the conversation. Things like ‘oh, you don’t like to cold call/email people? why is that? how could doing that help your business?’. Or maybe they will notice that you talk a lot about product, but not about distribution. And call your attention to it.
Again, honesty and questions are the key here. There are no stupid questions! Having to answer a question that your buddy asks will make you think about the answer.
This is the time to also bring up problems or barriers that you are hitting or deadlines that are coming up that are important.
One person could be overpowered, but two people can stand up for themselves. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.
— Ecclesiastes 4:12
(why ‘three cords’ and not two?)
3. Set up actionables
In the last part of your call it’s vital (VITAL, I SAY!) to set up some clear goals for the next couple of weeks. Don’t be stupid and overreach. Because a good accountability buddy is going to whip your ass in the next meeting when you don’t do it.
Why it works
For me, it’s The Motivation Of Embarrassment. Two or three days before I know I’m going to have to talk to my accountability buddy I go into ‘oh shit’ mode and realise I have to get my stuff done or I am going to look like an idiot. Maybe it’s different for other people, but, for me, that’s a huge factor.
There’s other things two, like the fact that it’s usually easier to criticize, I mean, see, other people’s problems. So, your buddy will do that for you, and you’ll do that for them. Being outside of the team that is responsible for making your business go really gives the detachment needed.
What having an accountability buddy has done for me
One word: Progress.
I’ve accomplished a LOT in the last 6 months, and I think a big chunk o’ thanks belongs to my Accountability Buddy. I’m a bit of a shy person. I prefer to sit in my room, grooving with a pict. I can set goals for myself, but, if I didn’t get them done… oh well. Maybe next week. It’s very very hard to keep self-motivation going in such an abstract situation. And self-reward or punishment only goes so far I find.
The Accountability Buddy street runs both ways, and being able to help someone else with their business is also very fulfilling. And it hones your listening skills (do your buddy a favour and listen!) and your analytical skills too.
An accountability partner can help you identify weaknesses in your business, make plans to overcome them and hold you accountable for action. It has changed my life, even beyond my business. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
But most of all
Your accountability partner should look you in the eye and ask: “Have you looked at pornography since our last meeting?”
Oops. Wrong article.