In the process of working together, I got to know “Brian” well, both personally and professionally. On occasion, he’d confide in me about challenges he was facing with his college-age son.
I remember one time in particular.
Brian described how he’d responded to one of his son’s many requests. I was dumbfounded. This dad was clearly engaging in what any counselor would call “enabling” behavior – doing something for another person that he should be doing for himself. Creating dependence. Not preparing this young man to become a responsible, successful adult.
I made the decision in a split-second to jump in with both feet and ask him some hard questions.
Questions that forced him to think about the consequences of his actions.
He was clearly uncomfortable trying to come up with responses to my questions, but I persisted. I could envision the disastrous father-son relationship unfolding with all kinds of undesirable outcomes. I felt compelled to help Brian see what could happen if he continued to rescue his son.
Later, Brian thanked me and said that conversation was a turning point in their relationship.
And then he used a phrase to describe me that I cherish to this day:
I pride myself on speaking the truth to people, but I try to do it gently, to maintain the other person’s dignity and self-esteem.
I got to thinking…we all need at least one person in our lives who’s willing to be that kind of coach for us, an accountability coach.
Your motivation increases – sometimes by a factor of 10 or more – when you know you have to answer to someone else for your actions.
The founders of 12-step programs understood this. When people start attending meetings, they are encouraged to get a “sponsor.” This is a person who will be there to support them and ask the hard questions to keep them on track.
If you’re trying to make a significant change in your life – whether it’s related to your career, a personal relationship, an addiction, eating habits, or exercise routine – make it a priority to find someone who will agree to be your accountability coach.
This person’s main job is to contact you regularly and ask whether you did what you said you were going to do.
Knowing you’ll have to face this person’s questions helps you stay on track during moments of weakness, distraction or potential excuse-making.
Who’s the best person to ask?
1. Someone you trust. You’re going to be opening yourself up to scrutiny and making yourself vulnerable. So you have to feel confident that he or she will have your best interest at heart and keep confidential anything you share.
2. Someone who will be honest with you. Who would make the best “velvet hammer” for you? You need a person who will tell you the truth without sugar-coating it.
3. Someone who’s willing to contact you regularly. Who can you count on to follow through and stick with the schedule you both agree to? Consistency is key here, so you need a person you can depend on.
Having an accountability coach doesn't have to take a lot of time for either party. The goal is to keep you on track with frequent touch-points. Your coach’s role is to ask questions that reveal if you've been completing the actions you committed to. You can even create the questions you want the person to ask you. After all, YOU know better than anyone what you want to achieve…and what sort of accountability structure will best keep you on track.
If you’d like to investigate a technology that combines a proven process for building new habits with a group of support coaches, check out ProStar Coach. A one-year subscription to this online development system can help you develop the strengths and skills you need to be strong for every aspect of your life.