Click HERE to view the Accountability Buddy Guidebook, which includes a template for your Accountability Buddy Contract!
An Accountability Buddy (AB) is someone who can help you strive to meet goals, focus your energy, and accomplish more than you will if you try to do it alone. Since you’re buddies, it also means you provide those same services to them. An AB is generally not your spouse or a close colleague; either could have too much of an interest in particular outcomes to be impartial and objective. Your AB is your idea-bouncer, encourager, feet-to-the-fire helper who can make a difference in your career or project goals.
- Start with a three-month commitment. If it works out great, you can continue as long as you want. Plan to assess your AB relationship at the end of the three months and evaluate how you both feel it’s working.
- Have a goal in mind. Do you want to finish a book proposal? Complete a business plan? Update your website? Your buddy needs to have a clear idea of what you want them to be accountable for.
- Maintain regular meetings. These are planned and unmoving. They can be via phone or video chat, but at least a monthly face-to-face in some form is crucial.
- Ensure confidentiality. This is imperative to building trust. Assume confidentiality unless told otherwise.
- Make sure the relationship is reciprocal. This is a two-way street. If you want help without the responsibility of giving back, a career/life coach is a better option.
- Have an agenda for each meeting. Include topics and time frames.
- Stick to your time limit. Allow equal time for each buddy to help and be helped.
- Stick to the topic and avoid small talk. You can always get together at other times if you want to socialize too.
- Take notes. Review your notes before the next meeting so you can hold the other person accountable for what was discussed.
- End with action items. Be clear about just what will happen before the next meeting. Make sure those items are punctuated with words of encouragement—both given and received.
Practicing your listening skills
- Ask your buddy, "What do you need from me?" or “How can I help you?” They may want you to question, paraphrase, empathize, support, analyze, evaluate, advise, or a combination of the above. Find out what your buddy needs before you assume and make moves toward what may be the wrong goal.
- Know what type of listener/collaborator you are. Are you action-oriented? Time-oriented? People-oriented? Content-oriented? You may need to stretch into areas of expertise you don't typically use to be the best buddy you can be. Broadening your listening skills will not only help your buddy but also be useful to you in other interpersonal situations.
- Be an active listener. Paraphrase what your buddy is saying and check to make sure what you are hearing is correct.
- Keep yourself in check. Make sure you aren't trying to one-up your buddy or be the fixer when it's not what your buddy is asking for.
- What are the reasons ___________ will be successful?
- What are the potential barriers you'll face? How will you overcome these?
- What's next?
- What is the next small goal that will feed into the larger goal?
- What is the ultimate goal, and how does this smaller step support that?
- What support do you need? Who can help provide this support?
- What are you learning?
- How would ___________ (someone the person admires) tackle this issue?
- What is distracting you? How can you remove this distraction?
- What is your legacy?
- Open mind, closed mouth. They need someone who can actively listen and really understand the problem before trying to fix things.
- Do construction work when needed. They need someone who can observe from the outside and notice things that they may not be able to see.
- Work on problem-solving. When they are struggling, you can help them strategize how to overcome those struggles.
- Cheerlead/encourage. When your AB doesn’t believe they can do it, they need someone who can cheer them on and renew their confidence. Your belief in their ability to succeed can remind them of other relevant successes.
- Keep your buddy focused. They need someone to help them stay on task and keep things clear and concise. Once they start wandering from their goals, it can be hard to refocus.
- Honesty is the best policy (but be kind!). They need a buddy who is honest and doesn’t just tell them that everything they do is great.
- Work on goal-setting. They need someone to hold their feet to the fire and push them to succeed.
- Be a Curious George. They need someone who can ask open-ended questions and delve into the deeper reasons they want to achieve their goals.
- Exude compassion. It's tough to be challenged on your desires and work. They need someone who can be tough and kind simultaneously. Avoid interrogating them or else they’ll feel like they’re not in a safe atmosphere.
- Be your buddy's advocate. They need someone who can represent them to others and help them network where possible.
- Mirror mirror. They need someone who can show them the best in themselves. Your goal is to help them find their strengths and overcome their shortcomings.
- Energizer. At the end of your sessions, they should feel like they've got a great set of goals and that you've helped get them there.
- Wendy Whiner. You need to find someone who can push you to succeed, not help you justify why you can't.
- Disingenuous Dave. Buddies need to both walk the walk and talk the talk. A good buddy is authentic. If they don’t make their goal, they shouldn’t try to cover it up to save face.
- Naysaying Nancy. This is a buddy who spends too much time telling you why it won't work without guiding you and helping you to define how it could work.
- Platform Paul. If your buddy is constantly turning your issues around to focus on him/themselves to one-up you, then you will not get the support you need.
- Debbie Dictator. Your buddy is ONE person who has their own takes. Don't let one person's opinions dictate if you are going to make it happen.
NOTE: If you feel that your Accountability Buddy needs professional support, it's in both of your best interests to make that happen for them. Accountability Buddies are not professional therapists, life coaches, or counselors.
Should my Accountability Buddy be in the same field?
You can choose an AB from any industry. When choosing your AB, the most important thing to consider is who will be the best fit and offer you the kind of support you need.
NOTE: While an AB in your industry might be helpful to pool contacts and share expertise, it could also foster competitiveness or cautiousness, which could ultimately hold you back.
How often should I check in with my AB?
A set time once a week is encouraged. This weekly check-in is a fixed appointment that is unmoving. If you choose to have less frequent check-ins, or to have an in-person appointment on a monthly basis only, it helps if there is a scheduled call/video chat weekly or biweekly to check in on action/inaction.
NOTE: A successful AB relationship will only work if both parties honor the time committed and allocated for check-ins. If the time is being frequently moved, then you (or your partner) may not be committed enough to the relationship.
What is the best way to communicate with your AB?
It depends on the person! Some people work better by email, others in person or over the phone. You can send daily texts to help encourage your buddy or to check in and make sure you're fulfilling commitments without it being so "formal."
My AB keeps cancelling our check-in at the last minute. What do I do?
Go behind the smokescreen of excuses. Find out the real reason behind their excuse to cancel, and work that into how you set up your appointment. Find out where they have a spare 30–60 minutes and try to set up a 7:30 breakfast meeting; meet at the café next to where the kids have their weekly class; or go to the park with a picnic.
NOTE: Feeling stressed out? Go for a long walk for your meeting. Fresh air, exercise, and a great conversation can do wonders to clear the head!
How do you differentiate between big-picture goals versus weekly action steps?
The AB relationship initially starts as a minimum three-month commitment. To begin with, think about what you would like to have achieved three months from now, and then break that down into achievable chunks. Action steps are specific changes that will achieve specific outcomes. These smaller steps are what ultimately push a project to completion. Breaking things down into actionable steps will help you from becoming overwhelmed.
How do you keep the AB relationship peer-to-peer and avoid a mentor/coach/therapist scenario?
An AB relationship is about mutual respect, and part of that is honoring boundaries. If a relationship has turned into a therapist/client scenario, that means you’ve let boundaries slip. If you fear that your meeting might be heading in that direction, it is crucial to focus on goals and actions that you can reasonably support your AB in taking.
However, you may find that there are people who need more help than you can give. If you feel that this is the case, it is important to acknowledge the problem and quickly redirect the conversation. A useful thing to say might include:
“Gee, that sounds like a significant issue for you to address. Honestly, I don’t have the right skills to handle this with the care it deserves. It sounds like a career coach/HR rep/therapist might be great for working out this particular problem with you. In the meantime, let’s get back to your goal at hand—and maybe setting up additional support needs to be part of your action steps.”
In your next meeting, check in to see if they have sought out professional help.
What do you do if an AB doesn't pull their weight?
It is important to be communicative. Tell your AB what you feel and what you need from them, and be specific.
What happens if the relationship/ dynamic isn’t working?
It is important to honor your three-month commitment. If you are feeling frustrated by your AB, focus on the positives and think about what you can learn from them. Turn a problem into a solution and see it as a personal challenge. Turn obstacles into opportunities for personal growth. For example:
Is your AB a stickler for specifics? Think of that as an opportunity to become more detail-oriented. Is your AB combative? Turn that into ways to advance your presentation style. Does your AB appear apprehensive? Strategize ways to communicate your ideas more effectively.