When I talk about accountability, I do not necessarily refer to getting advice, although that might be a natural progression. Bill Cosby apparently said that “a word to the wise ain’t necessary – it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.” So in the interest of at least appearing to be counted among the wise, let’s skip the seeking advice part (for now only, sorry Bill).
I have always found great value in surrounding myself with accountability partners. These might be people who play a mentorship role in my life, they might be very close friends who are familiar with my blind spots and who graciously still want to be around me. There has even been occasions when an accountability partner was someone with whom, apart from mutual respect, I had absolutely nothing in common.
Consider a moment how many decisions we make each day. Most of these are not life changing (unless it concerns changing from thick base to thin base pizza). There are times, however, that we have to make business or personal decisions that alter the course of our lives.
These occasions are often tainted by emotional upheaval or other stresses of sorts – things that make you take your eyes off the prize. Objective decision-making is much harder during these times.
It is here where a small group (you don’t want to start a support group – you just need a handful of trustworthy sounding boards) of people to whom you can be accountable comes in. The ideal accountability partner is not focused on ‘fixing’ you. He or she listens to your situation and is able to guide you through the decision-making process by asking questions. These questions are either relevant because the person knows you very well or because the person knows the topic or issue very well or because (s)he has learnt a great deal from life and can with wisdom see the pitfalls or treasures.
What makes sharing on this level a rich experience, is that it deals with the area of motives. We easily hide our motives from colleagues or friends, but the accountability partner relationship is such that it demands complete honesty* on both sides. When the motive behind a decision is tainted, it will show in the aftermath, so best to get that right from the start.
Accountability partners also hold each other accountable in terms of values and goals. There are certain values I want to be known by on a personal and professional level. There are also many goals I would like to achieve in a certain timeframe. Sometimes these are challenged or compromised – either by myself or circumstances.
The freedom to ask or to be asked the difficult questions to help us own up or re-direct sails is both courageous and liberating. It also underscores the fact that the lone ranger persona has never really brought about success.
Difficult as it is to admit, we do not always have all the answers, and while you might not want everyone to know your business (read: decisions, mistakes, dreams, fears), staying accountable to someone:
- reduces the chances of being hoodwinked,
- helps you to stay true to yourself,
- and broadens your perspective to include views to which you would not have otherwise been exposed.
* Sincere apologies to those shaken at the insinuation that friends are not always honest with each other. ‘Tis unfortunately true … and also a different topic for discussion.