It’s something we learn from a very early age. When you’re a toddler and you break a vase, telling the truth and being accountable can often get you out of hot water.
When you become a student, those report cards that are sent home to your parents are nothing but little packets of accountability. An accounting of your scholastic actions. (Or, in my case, inactions. Ahem.)
We get used to being accountable. We get trained for it. That is, until we complete our last year of school. Whether it’s that last day of high school or the final day or our Master’s program, the minute school ends . . .so does most of our accountability.
Sure, many regular jobs have accountability baked right in. In many full time jobs, you are accountable to be there on time, get the bare minimum of reports filed, and repeat that process every Monday through Friday. As long as you both shall live. But that’s not that much to be proud of, is it? By then its just simply habit that’s driving you to accomplish these tasks.
As we get more established in our lives, true accountability starts disappearing. You’re a little accountable in a full time job but once you go off and start a business of your own, there’s zero accountability. Right when you need it the most.
But it’s understandable. After all, isn’t one of the reasons you even started this business is to be your own boss?
To stop answering to The Man?
Well, yes and no. While you might not need to answer to The Man, you are still answering to someone. Yourself.
But realistically, how challenging is that? Let’s be honest – exactly how hard on yourself are you going to be? Having only you to answer to is tantamount to having to report in to your college drinking buddy. How hard is he going to be on you when you miss a deadline? Or worse, when you don’t complete an important business task you promised yourself you would?
Once that accountability truly fades away from your life, many of your dreams will slip away too. Because the goals and milestones that lead up to those dreams will never be reached. Because you’ll be too busy just showing up and completing endless paperwork to actually work on your goals.
Uh-oh. I can almost hear you thinking : “What goals? What milestones?”
You do have goals that you try to achieve each quarter, each week, each day, don’t you? You do have a system in place to ensure that you are going to knock those goals out each quarter, each week and each day right? (If not, I suggest you read this post that I wrote about creating a perfect systematization to help your business run smoothly.)
If you’re like most coffee-chugging, overworked, multiple-hat-wearing entrepreneurs I know, the answer is likely no. The idea of adding on another level of stress and deadlines to your already overtaxed schedule is overwhelming.
But that’s backwards thinking! Writing down goals and achieving accountability will help smooth out and structure your day into the most powerful, streamlined, productive workflow possible.
It will eliminate – not add – stress.
You will go to bed not tossing and turning and worrying over everything you didn’t have time to accomplish. Rather, you will drift off peacefully with a mental image of your completed checklist for the day.
You’ll feel in control, assured that you worked smart (not just hard) that day. And that you will do so the very next day as well.
Sounds good? Let’s set you up with an accountability system. It is comprised of two main elements : Goals + Mentor. But there are mini-steps inside each of those.
The first thing you need to do is start looking for a mentor. I like to get this part going first because it can often take a bit of time, and while that’s developing you can turn your attention to goals.
Finding a great mentor takes some time but is still easier than you think. The best mentors are ones who find mentoring rewarding in and of itself. It’s also a great feather in their cap – to be able to say that they are accomplished enough in their field to be asked to mentor.
Before you even begin to think about finding a mentor, you have to get specific. What kind of help will you require? Simply saying “I need help with business mentoring” is far too vague. (These tips in this post on delegating work will help you decide what kind of help you are going to need.)
It’s like telling your doctor that your “body hurts.” What is she supposed to do with that vague information?
Instead, imagine what kind of specific help you’ll need. Defining that early on will not just help you zero in on the right person, but it will help you to communicate to that person exactly what you need from them.
For instance, if you think that you need help networking and getting to know like-minded business owners, you might not want to pick a genius-but-shy lone wolf business owner.
Then again, if getting a handle on your finances and investing wisely into your business is something you really want to let better at, it’s smarter to seek out a money-whiz rather than a social marketing butterfly.
Once you know what you need, you’ll know whom you need. (This post on how to create a marketing plan is a great place to start to figure out what you need.)
The right mentor can come from anywhere, but chances are you’ll find him or her via your current business network. They can be an older, more experienced person at the full time job you just left (or are about to leave!) or they can be a member of your Fantasy Football League. Keep your eyes open.
If you can’t think of anyone in your current sphere, then expand it.
Start seeking out and attending clubs and associations that look interesting to you and salient to your business. Keep your ears and eyes open and talk to everyone. (If you still are having difficulty finding the right person, consider online mentoring-matchmaking services like Score.org or NationalMentoringMonth.org. You could find someone who’s actively looking to help someone just like you.)
Now, say you have finally identified your potential mentor. It’s time to meet for coffee or lunch (with you paying, of course) and discuss setting up a relationship. The key to this meeting is clarity. Be crystal clear on what kind of advice and what kind of mentoring you’re hoping for. Be specific about how often you’d like to meet and for how long.
Once you put clean, clear parameters around what kind of time and energy commitment this would require from them, the more likely they are to say yes.
What if they say no, thanks? Graciously thank them for meeting with you and ask if they might know anyone else who would be interested in becoming your mentor. You might be surprised how many names your friend can offer up to you. They might even offer to make the introduction and recommend you personally.
Now that you have a mentor in place, it’s time to talk about goals. Why? Because you want to make the most out of these mentor meetings. Because that which gets measured, gets improved. Because having hazy, vague conversations will get you nowhere and feel like a waste of both of your time. (Knowing what your customers want is a great place to start goal planning. This post here has tons of tips on creating a visual image of the right customer for your business.)
Honestly, the most important and effective part of a mentoring relationship is not the meetings themselves. Its what happens in between the meetings.
If you have a written list of goals that you are trying to accomplish, you’re far more likely to tackle them if you have someone to hold you accountable to them. Next Sunday afternoon, someone you respect is going to look you in the eye and ask you why he or she aren’t done. That will get you out of bed earlier and achieving those goals.
This brings us full circle.
Back To Accountability
Having a mentor give you great advice, learning from their mistakes, hearing their inspirational tales…all of those are fantastic pieces of the puzzle.
But the most important one is explaining to a mentor once a month, once a week, whatever, why you didn’t do what you said you were going to do.
Call it shame, call it guilt, it’s a powerful motivator for you to do what needs to be done to not just work in your business but also grow it in the direction you want it to grow. To create a dream business that allows you all the freedom and financial security you could ever want.
So Here We Go – Let’s Get Goal-setting.
- Pick seven goals that you want to achieve in the next three months. These can include business, personal, money, family, health, fitness, spiritual, whatever
- Write them down along with the first step needed to get each one started, who else is involved and a deadline to complete, a date to review.
- Now, whether you have a mentor or not, write down who you are going to tell and give a copy to. They will be your accountability partner (Idea: Maybe they can do the same and give it to you?).
Start today. Stop reading and do it now. Be clear and then be accountable. And, remember, I may be asking you questions about your goals one day.
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