The magic of accountability

One of the reasons people hire a coach is that they want and value the external accountability that it provides. They recognise that by making a commitment that someone else will ask them about, they will get further, faster than they would on their own. That’s certainly the case for me – only last month I got a relatively simple task done within two days of speaking to my coach when I could quite easily have done it several weeks before. So what is it about external accountability that makes it so valuable? Why can’t we just crack on and do things ourselves without the external accountability?

Firstly, a coach (or another accountability partner) will help with creating the time and space to figure out which actions are the real priority. They will prompt you to think about which ones relate to your goal and which might be keeping you busy without necessarily making progress. With focus and clarity there often comes a sense of drive and oomph to make the things that matter happen. Without that nudge, it is easy to dive head first into a to-do list. Have you ever felt a sense of satisfaction at ticking things off, only to be replaced by frustration when you realise that despite all that effort you are still no closer to where you want to be? Yep, me too…

It is far more difficult to make excuses to someone else than it is to yourself. The usual suspects (I don’t have time, it probably won’t work anyway, I’ll do it later, I tried it once and it didn’t work) sound a little bit ridiculous if you say them aloud. Even if you try, a coach will offer challenge and not just accept an excuse at a surface level; they will prompt you to be honest with yourself and consider what the real reason behind the lack of action might be. Not always comfortable, but very effective at weeding out true reasons from excuses!

Results tend to come from sustained, consistent behaviours and actions; lots of small steps adding up to a bigger change. If you try and hold yourself accountable, it is easy to get drawn into focusing on the end result rather than the progress and to get frustrated or impatient if you can’t see it happening. In reality, you can only be held accountable for what is within your control; in other words the action rather than the result. When you’ve got someone recognising the work you are putting in and the progress you’re making, it gets easier to keep the focus on being consistent.

If you’ve taken the action you planned and it hasn’t delivered the result you expected then it is time to reassess and take into account what you’ve learned. Was it the wrong thing to do? Do you need to do more of it? Adapt it slightly? If you’ve taken action but found you couldn’t face being consistent with it then what other approaches could you take to get the result you want? It’s much easier for someone else to hold this straightforward, non-emotive viewpoint than it is to do it for yourself. And once they do, it is surprisingly easy to join them in being practical about what that means for your next steps.

A coach is also likely to prompt you to anticipate obstacles and consider ahead of time what might go wrong. If you’re feeling motivated and wanting to get on with making progress then it is easy to get gung-ho and shift straight from planning to action. Although that might feel great to start with, the first hurdle can be enough to have you grinding back to a halt again. Voicing what you need to do to set yourself up for success, or what your fall-back plan is if things don’t go according to plan means you’re more prepared for the bumps in the road and can take them in your stride.

Beyond all of this, external accountability creates a sense of obligation. By committing to someone else that you will do something, you add an additional layer of duty into the mix. If you’re the kind of person who struggles to say ‘no’, and you feel uncomfortable letting someone else down then the big benefit of external accountability is that it applies that same sense of duty to the things that matter to you.

If you’d like some support with making progress then get in touch; you can book a free initial chat here.

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