In this episode of The Hot Seat, Cristina and Sara share quick tips on how to form a strong accountability relationship with a group or partner, what to take into consideration when choosing a partner or group, and where to start in finding one.
You’re getting better at holding yourself accountable and you know what makes for a great accountability partner and a successful accountability system- but how the heck do you actually find an accountability buddy? Have no fear, One Woman Shop is here!
One Woman Shop: We’re a little biased, but we think we have a pretty awesome community right here. If you’re interested in an accountability buddy, please complete this quick form at the bottom of this post. We’ll then share you on the spreadsheet so you can peruse other accountability buddy requests and reach out if you find a great potential (tweet this out).
Networking groups: You’re almost guaranteed to find a relevant meetup group on Meetup.com. Search for specific business interests (SEO, Etsy shop owners, etc) or general groups, like those for female entrepreneurs. If you’re not having any luck, try Google searching with keywords like “female entrepreneurs,” “freelancers,” or “solopreneurs” and your city name.
Local Levo: Levo League- which describes itself as “a thriving community of young professionals, mentors, and innovative companies taking Gen Y by storm”- hosts local meetups, called Local Levo. If you’re lucky enough to be in one of the 23 cities with chapters, take advantage of the opportunity to meet like-minded career and business women.
Coworking spaces: These shared office spaces often host networking events for entrepreneurs and some- like In Good Company, Hera Hub and Posh Coworking– even cater specifically to females. Attend a community event and see if you click with anyone there.
Twitter: Use FollowerWonk to search Twitter bios of those in your area. If you find an interesting profile, follow the link to the person’s website, find their email, and ask if they’d like to grab coffee (remember: save the accountability partner request for later down the road).
You know how to choose a great accountability partner– but what about how to set up a great fail-proof system with your new accountability pal? Here are 7 ways to create an awesome accountability system:
Keep It Simple
As business owners we are faced with thousands of decisions everyday. When we have to think too much about something we often end up doing nothing at all. So, when it comes to these meetings, keep it simple! Pick a time, a place, and a frequency for your meetings and make it a standing meeting. “10 AM, at the Main Street Cafe, every other Tuesday” works so much better than a weekly chain of indecisive emails trying to narrow down a time and place that works for both parties. If something unavoidable comes up and the meeting has to be rescheduled that’s fine, but try not to make a habit of rescheduling. Put it on the calendar and make it one less thing to think about.
Use a Buddy System Notebook
How many of us have a zillion lists, post-its, notebooks, and planners in use all at once at any given time? Assign one specific notebook or binder as your “Buddy System Binder” only. If you prefer to be all digital, make a notebook on Evernote titled “Buddy System” and use it every time. Keep notes from your meetings in here along with lists, goals, and topics you want to discuss. Having a special place for meeting-specific items makes it easier to find what you need when it’s time to get down to business.
Use your Buddy System Notebook to make a list ahead of time of topics you’d like to cover at the next meeting. Add to your topics list in your notebook as ideas arise between meetings. This gives the meeting some structure and ensures that the meeting is productive. Without a list of topics, it is easy to get off-track, forget what you wanted to discuss, and then leave feeling even more lost than you began.
Set and Share Goals
This is the heart and soul of accountability meetings! At the end of each meeting list 3-5 goals in your notebook that you want to accomplish by the next time you meet. Make them specific (“I will write 3 new blog posts”, as opposed to simply, “blog more”) as well as attainable. Share them with one another and write the other person’s goals in your notebook as well so that you can hold them accountable (it’s a two-way street!).
Check In and Motivate
Make it a point to check-in with one another between meetings to remind each other to keep moving forward. This doesn’t have to be formal or labor-intensive. It also doesn’t have to be aggressive and is not intended to make the other person feel guilty. Just send a quick text saying, “How’s that blog post coming?”, or email each other as you check things off your list. Our competitive nature kicks in when we hear our partner say, “Three goals down, one to go!” and motivates us to follow suit.
Establish Rewards and Consequences
My buddy and I have a standing deal with regard to our goals: Whoever doesn’t complete the goals on their to-do list is in charge of paying for coffee at our next meeting. If we both accomplish everything on our list, then we pay for ourselves. You can also try this clever trick of donating to an organization that you hate if you don’t reach your goal.
You might also want to add a reward to the mix. For example, every week that you accomplish everything on your to-do list you add $5 to a jar to save up for a massage or treat yourself to a fancy new office product. Risks and rewards keep things interesting!
Find What Works
There is no set meeting structure that works for everyone. While my buddy and I meet at the same time and place every other week, perhaps that set-up wouldn’t work for you. Maybe coffee shops aren’t your style and you’d prefer to alternate meeting at each other’s houses and trade off cooking dinner for the two of you. Perhaps your buddy is long-distance and you like to meet on Skype. Or, maybe you’ve found that meeting in a small group of five is more enjoyable than one-on-one.
You may start off meeting every week and then find that you are just too busy to fit it all in. In that case, you may want to taper off to biweekly or monthly meetings. Or, maybe over time you find that your personalities just aren’t meshing anymore and you dread the meetings more than you look forward to them and decide to call it quits. All of these things are okay!
Accountability meetings can be extremely beneficial for your business and morale as long as you continue to be productive and enjoy them. As soon as they become a burden or are hindering more than helping your business, it’s time to change things up or move on. Finding what works for you can take time, but once you find the right system, it’s amazing how far a little teamwork can take you.
We’ve all been there. Armed with a to-do list a mile long and a pocket full of good intentions, you are determined to get it all done this week. You promise yourself that your project will be completed by Tuesday… Wednesday…or the weekend. Yet, as Sunday comes to a close and your project is no closer to being finished, you chalk it up to a loss and add it to next week’s list. Lather, rinse, repeat.
You’ve tried bribing yourself with rewards: “As soon as I get this done, I’ll take a break and grab a latte.”
You’ve tried restrictions: “Okay, absolutely NO Facebook until this is complete!”
You’ve even tried the overzealous buckle-down method: “Tomorrow I’m going to be super productive and check all 20 things off my list!” Still no real progress.
The problem with this sort of system is that you are only accountable to yourself. In a traditional workplace there are supervisors, bosses, and co-workers to answer to. If you drop the ball, others are affected. As a one-woman shop owner, however, the responsibility falls solely on you and the consequences are usually yours alone to deal with.
In addition, not only are you missing the direction and ultimatums that come with having a boss, but you are also lacking the encouragement and support from colleagues that can be found in a traditional workplace.
What you need is a buddy! Setting up your own Buddy System doesn’t have to be intimidating or tricky.
This sounds obvious, but finding someone you actually like and want to meet up with is essential. Remember: it doesn’t have to be strictly business. While the cornerstone of the accountability meeting is goal-setting and business talk, it is important to allow yourself to get off-topic sometimes and chat about life, catch up on gossip, or just be silly with each other.
Of course we love working for ourselves, but at times it can be lonely. Part of the advantage of having a buddy is to simply get out of the house, enjoy the company of someone other than your cat, and decompress. As long as the majority of your meeting time is focused and structured, it’s totally fine to relax and vent about other things.
The key to a great partnership is finding someone whose business has enough in common with yours to offer value without being so alike that it becomes competitive. For example, my buddy and I are both creative businesses owners. I am an illustrator and she is a photographer. We relate to each other well in that regard and we’re able to share things that would be valuable to both of us like marketing opportunities, informative blog posts, and upcoming creative events. If we were both wedding photographers, however, we may find ourselves holding back information out of fear that the other person would out-do us or steal away potential clients. The point of this type of relationship is to share and support one another, not steal trade secrets and compete.
Other considerations from One Woman Shop:
Does this person thrive in areas where you don’t and vice versa?
Does this person utilize and like the same forms of communication as you? For example, some people prefer email over the phone or the phone over Skype.
Along the same lines, is this person responsive? There’s nothing worse than an accountability buddy who drops off the face of the planet!
Can this person be honest and straightforward without being overly harsh? On the flip side, can they accept feedback without getting defensive?
Stay tuned this week for more wisdom from Megan on setting up a great accountability system and advice on how to actually go about finding a buddy!
We are thrilled to announce our first ever theme week here at One Woman Shop- Accountability Week! Each day this week, you’ll see a post or resources for helping you stay accountable in your business and life, whether on your own or with a partner (spoiler alert: we want to help you find one).