The Importance of Accountability
Let me begin by saying that, personally, I like to believe that I am more than capable of defining, planning, and reaching my goals all by myself. I’m pretty smart, pretty knowledgeable, and pretty driven, and I don’t like other people telling me what to do. If I wanted someone standing over me, watching and judging my performance, I’d have a job instead of a business.
Let me now go on to say that I find that I am far more focused and effective at reaching my big goals when I have people who hold me accountable to them.
Yeah, it’s a contradiction.
But I think that for almost everyone, there are 2 sets of priorities in life: the things you HAVE to do (go to work, clean the house, pet the dog, pet the husband, etc) and the things you don’t have to do, but which bring much greater long-term rewards (flip enough deals to quit the job, buy a house, train the dog, train the husband).
The first set of goals is relatively easy to accomplish, if only because day-today life doesn’t proceed very well without them. The second set is more difficult, because, in all honesty, your life won’t change much if you don’t flip a house this week. That particular lack of change should, of course, be viewed as a BAD thing, but if everything else is going OK (you haven’t lost your job or been faced with a giant medical bill or something), it’s not a bad enough thing to spur you into action next week.
In an already-full life (which I think most of us would agree that we have), it’s often difficult to find the time to do something that will eventually lead us to a better life; it’s so much easier to tick off the “must dos” and put off the “wanna dos” until tomorrow.
The Must Dos in Your Life vs. the Wanna Dos
For example, the “must dos” in my business life include making sure a certain number of offers go out every single week: just as some of you MUST go to work every day to pay the bills, I MUST buy houses every week to keep food on the table.
“Wanna dos”, as I use the term here, are not those fantasies that you’d do in a perfect world if time or money were no object (not that I don’t have a long list of THESE, too). Wanna dos are things that would have a large positive impact on your life of your business, but have very little immediate negative impact if you don’t do them.
An example of this kind of “wanna do” in my own business is to test adwords for my house-buying website. If I do it, I will probably get 5-10 more qualified leads each week. If I don’t, nothing changes. Doing it would probably be a “high leverage project”—once I figured out the right adwords, they’d continue to generate extra leads indefinitely with no more work on my part. But it’s not a “must do” in the sense that something awful will go wrong if I don’t do it.
For many of us, there are more of these “wanna dos”—what Steven Covey calls “Quadrant B items”–than you could ever reasonably complete in your entire life. And, unfortunately, these things don’t tend to fall cleanly into any one period of time that you might set aside (for years, I had the fantasy that I would write my next book “as soon as I had 3 weeks to devote to it”. Yeah, right…turns out the only way they get written is one hour here and there for months and months and months.)
It would be so much easier if these goals WERE simple, and closed-ended, and if the world were going to fall down around our ears if they didn’t happen…but the fact is, they’re not. And yet they’re important—crucially important—to growing your life beyond its current boundaries.
So how do you motivate yourself to tackle them, EVEN THOUGH they will never be nipping at your heels the way your other to-dos do, and EVEN THOUGH you will almost never get the satisfaction of completing them in one clean sweep?
How Accountability Helps Get Those Important Wanna Dos Done
The answer is simple—set up an accountability system with another person where you choose and name the highest-leverage “wanna dos” in your life, then are responsible for reporting your progress on those goals to someone else periodically.
This is a very powerful arrangement that works for a number of reasons.
- Most basically, it’s a lot easier to blow off your want-to-do list when you don’t have to TELL someone else that you blew it off. The very act of having to say it out loud to someone else is enough to make you make progress that you otherwise wouldn’t.
- Having to come up with something to commit to for your accountability partner or partners in the first place makes you look at that whole “wanna do” list and decide which is the highest leverage and most do-able. Dragging out the list and examining it makes it more a part of your day to day life, which is always a good thing
- Finally, your accountability partner’s own progress will spur you on to bigger and better things, which will, in turn, spur THEM on, and so on.
Now, lest you think I am lecturing without doing, let me say that I have not one, not 2, but THREE separate systems for doing this in my life. I have a weekly 1-hour call with a personal coach for the purpose, as well as a weekly breakfast meeting with a colleague AND an occasional mastermind meeting. Yes, it takes all of that to keep me on track.
3 Forms of Successful Accountability Partnerships
I’ve both seen and experienced several forms of this “accountability partnership”. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. They are, in no particular order:
a. Hire an accountability partner. In this case, only YOU are accountable, because the person at the other end of the line is a professional of some sort who’s there to focus on YOUR progress. The advantages of this arrangement are that the other person has no vested interest in letting you beg off by saying “I had a tough week” or in letting you avoid or change the topic. He’s PAID to hold your feet the fire, and is willing to do so even when it makes you uncomfortable.
I use a personal coach for this purpose—one who’s not in real estate, but knows what my goals are by virtue of the fact that we’ve worked on them together.
I also serve as accountability coach for my FastTrack students, spending a few hours working out what the highest-leverage things in their business are, then calling them semii-weekly to make sure that they’re on track with their stated goals. It’s amazing how many of them will admit to doing the entire list Sunday night so that they wouldn’t have to tell me on a Monday morning call that they didn’t accomplish what they set out to do. And that’s fine with me, because the important thing is that, unlike a lot of other people trying to build a real estate business, they do it. I couldn’t care less if it’s 10 minutes after our last accountability call or 10 minutes before out next one, as long as it gets done!
If you’re not a FastTrack student and would like to become one check out the program here.
b. Recruit a friend, colleague, or acquaintance. This is, in some ways, the most risky method—if your partner is 1) not willing to call you on your excuses, lack of performance etc, 2) does not have your best interests at heart 3) is too competitive to want to see you succeed or 4) cannot commit to regular, scheduled contacts, they will do you no good (and, by the way, you have to be just as good a partner to them as they are to you!)
For this reason, I never recommend using a spouse or significant other as an accountability partner—there’s just too much chance of history and day-to-day grievances getting in the way of a good experience.
Similarly, be careful when choosing a competitor as your accountability partner. In one sense, getting another person in your field to bounce goals off of is good; in another, you’re risking the whole competition thing throwing you off track.
My weekly accountability partner is another investor; however, she lives and works in a geographic are that I don’t go into, and vice versa.
c. Put together an accountability group. With the same caveats as the above, sometimes a group of 3-4 people meeting regularly has a synergy that 2 can’t.
I’d like to share just a couple of more thoughts about this topic before I send you off to find an accountability partner:
First, be sure that you understand and continually re-commit to the purpose of your meetings, whether they be in person, by phone, or whatever. Your meetings have one purpose and one purpose only—to express and report on the progress toward your goals. Do not give in to the temptation to chit-chat or troubleshoot or brainstorm until AFTER you’ve done the important work of your meeting.
Second, be sure that you, yourself, are clear on the high-leverage wanna-dos in your life. If you come into your meetings with a goal of “I plan to make it through this entire week without exploding” or “my goal is to keep breathing in and out all week long” or similar “have to” goals, you’re missing out on the power of accountability. Telling someone that you’re going to do what you’re already doing or that you know you MUST do is a waste of your time and theirs. The point is to pull out some of the things you should do that you wouldn’t normally do and see what you can accomplish—not to keep on doing the same old same old.
Third, meet regularly and frequently. Once a week or bi-weekly is ideal.
Fourth, don’t play games and don’t let your partner play them, either. I once left a mastermind group for the simple reason that the members did not hold each other accountable for either their behavior or their goals. When your partner gets angry because you asked him WHY he made no progress at all this week, or when you intentionally set the bar low because you just don’t feel like accomplishing anything this week, you destroy the trust that’s necessary for these arrangements to work
Finally, overreach, but don’t over-overreach. Choose goals will accomplish a lot if you reach them, and that are difficult and out of your comfort zone. DON’T tell your partner that you’ll do 15 of them this week! With my accountability partners, I usually have 2-3 projects each week that I lay out. With less, I don’t stretch. With more, I only look at what I didn’t accomplish, rather than at what I did.
There is immense power in this kind of accountability. Make it your next goal to find or hire an accountability partner TODAY.