When you look at the entirety of human history, one thread weaves its way through everything: humans are most successful when we’re working together in groups. We aren’t meant to be working towards goals and struggling through our journeys alone, or even worse, pitted against one another.
Instead, the ideal scenario for human success is to have a person (or multiple people) who are on our path with us. They’re there to cheer us on and to provide an outside perspective on our progress and problems. They're also there to help us brainstorm solutions—and we do the same for them. We could call this person an accountability partner.
Let’s dive into what exactly accountability partners are, the benefits of having one, and how to find an accountability partner. We'll also cover how to make the most of this important relationship.
What is an accountability partner?
An accountability partner is typically someone who shares a goal that you want to achieve. You’ll build a reciprocal relationship where you team up together to pursue that goal and keep one another on track. An accountability partner is different from a coach or mentor (which is more of a one-way motivational/advisory relationship).
Just like any other kind of relationship between two people, everyone’s version of an accountability partnership will look a little different. This would all depend on their personalities, connection to one another, and the goal they’re trying to achieve.
Accountability partner responsibilities
Normally, accountability partners will do things like:
- Talk about their goals and brainstorm the best ways to achieve them
- Identify daily/weekly/monthly steps to take in pursuit of the bigger goal
- Check in with one another frequently to review how things are going
- Encourage one another and figure out how to get past any roadblocks you run into
You might find that you and your accountability partner create your own routines and preferences as you get comfortable.
Can you be partners with different goals?
Because every pair of accountability partners is different, you don’t have to find a partner who has exactly the same goal or is at the same phase of their progress. For instance, if you want to lose 20 pounds, you can still be accountability partners with someone who wants to lose 10 or 30. Regardless of the number, both of you will be trying to live a healthy lifestyle and exercise more. If you want to save $10,000 in a year, you can partner up with someone who wants to save $5,000 or $20,000. Both of you will be trying to cut expenses and increase income.
While they don't have to match exactly, having the same category of goal is best, so you can give one another the most relevant advice and encouragement. For instance, if you want to save $10,000 and your accountability partner wants to lose 20 pounds, you’ll each be doing very different activities to pursue those goals and may not be as helpful to one another. You could still cheer one another on as you reach milestones, though!
The benefits of having an accountability partner
If you really want to succeed at a goal, the data gives accountability partnerships a resounding thumbs-up. Having an accountability partner is enough to increase your chances of success to an astonishing 95%! And there are plenty of good reasons why this is the case.
Two heads are better than one
For one thing, an accountability partner gives you someone to compare notes with so you can both try different strategies and see what works best. It’s two people to do research, think of new ideas, validate them for each other, and test them with trial and error.
Motivation is contagious
When you have an accountability partner, seeing their hard work motivates you to work hard too, and vice versa. When you have an accountability partner you respect, you want them to have a good opinion of you and don’t want to let them down.
If you’ve committed to a goal like going running at 6 am every morning, you’re going to feel guilty lying in bed knowing that your partner is out there sweating. It puts on the pressure, but in a positive way; it’s a lot easier to stay in bed when you have nobody to answer to! There might be an element of friendly competition involved here too; you want to prove what you’re capable of and not get shown up.
We work harder when someone's watching
There’s actually a name for the idea that you’re more likely to change your behavior and work harder when you’re being observed. This is the Hawthorne Effect. In the most famous example, workers participating in a productivity study were extra productive while the study was taking place since they were being observed more closely, then their performance tapered off afterward.
Learn by teaching
Next, having an accountability partner doesn’t just put you in the role of a student. You’re a student, a teacher, and a cheerleader all at the same time. Many studies have shown that learning by teaching is extremely effective. If you just read about something or watch a tutorial, you may or may not retain that information effectively. But when you have to explain or demonstrate it to someone else, you need to have a deep enough understanding of the topic to make it clear for them too.
Enjoy the journey
The last benefit? It’s just more fun! Having someone on your team means you always have someone to talk to about your goals, crack inside jokes with, and build a closer friendship as you do the hard work together.
How to find an accountability partner
Okay, this all sounds great...now it’s time to go down to the accountability partner store to find your perfect match! (If only it were that easy.) The truth is, finding an accountability partner can be tough. You need to find someone who:
- Is working toward similar goals as you
- Also wants accountability for those goals
- Is comfortable sharing personal details with you (and you with them)
- Communicates in a similar way (i.e. email, text, phone, video, in-person? How frequently?)
It can feel like a needle in a haystack to find someone who checks the right boxes, but it helps if you dedicate intentional effort to seeking one.
Where to look
First, try your existing circle. Reach out, share a little bit about the goal you’re trying to achieve, and ask if anyone else would be interested in joining you for the challenge. This could be a family member, friend, coworker, or acquaintance who you wouldn’t mind getting to know better.
If that doesn’t work out, look for local groups—either in person or online—dedicated to the topic of your goal (finance, health, career, and so on). Spend time forging connections there and an accountability partnership may come naturally. If you’re working toward financial goals, think about joining the Clever Girl Finance Facebook community to look for a partner!
Lastly, in today's world, there’s an app for everything. Paying for an app like Supporti could give you even more motivation to stay accountable since you’re investing money as well as effort. There are features to match you with a partner and help both of you track progress and communicate with one another.
Achieving success together
For an accountability partnership to work, you both have to be committed to making it successful. Here are some tips for making the most of this relationship:
Choose the right partner
Finding the right partner is foundational to building a successful relationship and achieving positive outcomes. Look for compatible goals, lifestyles, philosophies, and communication styles.
Be specific about your big-picture goals and the steps to reach them
The more specific you can be, the easier it’ll be to communicate with your accountability partner and judge how well things are going.
Develop a shared system to track progress
There are plenty of options to track progress toward a goal, so use whatever system you’re likely to stick with. You could create a shared Google doc or spreadsheet, send one another pictures, use a goal tracking app, etc.
Prioritize working on your goals and checking in regularly
If you don’t make your goal a priority in your life, you’re much more likely to put things off, frustrate yourself and your accountability partner. And in turn, ultimately not succeed. Before you commit to an accountability challenge, make sure you have the time to invest in it. If life is busy, schedule regular times to check in so it doesn’t become a matter of one person chasing down the other to talk.
Working with an accountability partner can do amazing things for your success. It's all about having the ambition and commitment to dedicate to an accountability challenge. Start hunting for a partner and get ready to crush those goals!