Accountability bridges the gap between intention and results.”

Back in 1993 a study was conducted at Brigham Young University related to goal achievement.  The study found that the probability of achieving a particular goal was associated with the statements a person made about the goal.  People who said “That’s a good idea” had a 10% chance.  Those who said “I’ll do it,” had a 25% chance of reaching their goal.  Those who put a date by which they planned to achieve their goal had a 40% chance of doing so.  Those who developed a specific plan for reaching their goal had a 50% chance getting there. Those who committed to someone else that they would accomplish their goal had a 60% chance of making it.  But those people who committed to someone else and also committed to share their progress at regular intervals had a 95% chance of reaching their goal!!

The power of accountability is incredible and, as you can see, greatly increases your chances of doing what you say you are going to do.  This is one reason why it is so important to have a coach or a mentor.  How many times have you made a commitment to yourself, but then let yourself off the hook when the going gets tough.  It is next to impossible for you to see past your own logic!  Does that mean you need to run to the phone and hire me as your coach?  Not necessarily.  Finding an “accountability partner” can be one of the most powerful things you can do if you REALLY want to reach a particular goal.

Finding the right accountability partner is critical.  It should be someone you can trust with your dreams and someone whose opinion you value and for whom you have great respect (in other words it would hurt to let them down).  In some cases it could be a best friend or a spouse (sometimes, however, those people could be the very WORST accountability partners), a business colleague, a networking associate, etc.  You have to be willing to commit to what you wish to be held accountable for and to share your progress at regular intervals and they have to be willing to hold your feet to the fire and carry through with the consequence if need be.  Your Accountability Partner must agree to request progress reports from you at an agreed upon interval of time.  If left to you to provide these updates, you would likely forget all about them – this is your paradigm’s way of ensuring that you stay right where you are.

Accountability without consequence is meaningless.  Some may say, “Well, the consequence for not meeting my deadline is that I don’t reach my goal,” and that’s true, but as human beings, we are pleasure seekers and pain avoiders.  It is my experience that accountability contracts that have a clearly defined consequence for non-performance work best.  The consequence needs to be a source of more pain than the tasks associated with what you’re being held accountable for.

Let me give you an example.  Back in February my partner, Angie, was really struggling with the manuscript for our new book, Release.  It is an important body of work that will help many people.  She had an aggressive (but doable) goal of finishing the manuscript by the end of April, but the days kept slipping away and other things kept getting in the way of the writing time.  She came to me and asked me to be her accountability partner regarding the manuscript deadline.  We brainstormed consequences and it quickly became obvious what that consequence needed to be.  You see, Angie doesn’t necessarily value things.  We have a good life and taking away stuff or delaying getting more stuff is not much of a motivator for her.  But Angie does have a burning desire and it lies in her love of karate.  She is due to test for her 2nd level brown belt at our training center in Virginia in mid-May.  As her instructor, I have the ability to suspend that test just by sending an email.  So, the consequence of not finishing the manuscript by April 30, 2012 was the forfeit of her ability to test for her next belt in May.  She came up with the consequence and her hand shook as she signed the agreement, but once she did I saw a fire in her eyes.  I had no doubt that she would not only meet her deadline but  finished the manuscript before the end of April.

So, how did it turn out?  Obviously, quite well since I am writing about this on April 17th.  But here’s how the story played out.

I’ve always known about the power of accountability and I’ve certainly seen it work in my own life, and I’ve seen the impact it’s had in the lives of countless clients, but I have never had the opportunity to observe someone on a 24/7 basis while going through the process.  When I said that there was a look in Angie’s eyes when she signed the accountability agreement, it turns out that look was the outward manifestation of a moment of true, unwavering decision.  Something clicked inside Angie’s mind that DECIDED that failure was not an option – that doing whatever it took to avoid the pain associated with losing her karate test was worth it.  I watched the flame of burning desire grow larger and burn hotter inside her.  In the days that followed she transformed into a MACHINE!  She would wake up at 4:30 in the morning and get up to go write.  Several times, she woke up with an idea and actually went to her computer at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and wrote a section of the book just so she wouldn’t lose the train of thought that had come to her in her dreams.   During the work days she stayed focused on the things that HAD to be done in the business and then went back to writing.  She was more organized, more efficient, more productive and more directive than I have ever seen her.  She placed a high value on her time, so there was no time for dilly-dallying or chit-chat – she was incredibly focused on her goal.

We met each Sunday morning for a status update where she told me what had been accomplished and what her goals were for the upcoming week (and they were always more aggressive than I would have suggested).  She pushed herself incredibly hard.  In mid-March, she told me that her personal goal was to actually have the manuscript finished by April 15th.  Then during the last week of March, she hit a wall – she was scared to death that she wasn’t going to make it – that the task was too big.  She said she felt like she was crumbling under the pressure of it all.  I smiled at her as she ranted and raved and said just 2 words, “Okay.  Quit.” Knowing Angie as well as I do, I knew this would work – the shock of my words would give her the shot of adrenaline she needed to keep pushing through the Terror Barrier.  Her eyes narrowed and she laughed, turned around and went back to work.  The very next day she came back and said, “I think I can be finished in a week.”  And she did.  She delivered the completed draft manuscript to our team for internal review on April 6th – 3 full weeks ahead of her original deadline.

The lesson in this as I have thought about it a great deal is that the Accountability Agreement is the tool she used to fully commit to her decision.  Would the world have ended if she hadn’t completed the manuscript by April 30th?  Of course not.  But in her mind, failure was not an option – her commitment to her decision to make and then to beat that deadline was so strong that something deep inside her shifted.  Her image of herself and what she was capable of has been forever changed through this process – she is more confident, more focused, more capable, more proactive, more determined than ever before and her belief in herself is stronger than I have EVER seen.  It’s been an amazing process to observe!

What’s something you’ve been procrastinating or something that you’ve been meaning to get to, but it just seems to never quite get finished?  Think about it and then think about Angie’s story and decide that you will commit to do “it.”  Devise a consequence that is so unappealing that failure is not an option!  Go do it!!  Who knows what you will discover about yourself in the process.

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