by Stephan Wiedner
It’s that time of year: New Year’s resolution time. I once had a client who was a gym manager; she told me that around 90 percent of the people who sign up for a yearlong membership in January don’t make it past the first week.
This is because most people lack a structure for going from the contemplation phase of a goal (I want to get in shape) to the action phase (get a gym membership) to the completion phase (work out to see results). In short, they lack accountability.
Business leaders often run into the same problem. Whether they’re setting financial, productivity, or growth goals, business leaders often focus on the goals more than the steps necessary to complete those goals. For those of you heading into 2014 with high aspirations, it’s time to learn the art of accountability.
Psychological Traps That Hold You Back
Fortunately for corporations, accountability is built into their structure. Take the CEO of a corporation, for example: He or she will always answer to a board of directors. What if you’re an entrepreneur who has no one to answer to but yourself? There’s a good chance you’ll fall into one of these three psychological traps:
- Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Face it: If you have two weeks to write a proposal, you’ll probably take two weeks to write the proposal. On the other hand, if you only have 24 hours, you’ll get it done in 24 hours. Make sure you have someone holding your work accountable so you don’t spend two weeks doing something you could have done in one day.
- Pareto Principle: “For many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.” This is a very common trap for entrepreneurs who started off specializing in a particular area of business – like the technical side – but now need to focus on areas that affect the company’s bottom line, like sales or marketing. Without someone holding you accountable for completing those vital tasks that make up the 20 percent, you may end up spending time on things that aren’t contributing to your end goals.
- Planning Fallacy: “[There is] a tendency for people and organizations to underestimate how long they will need to complete a task.” Most of my clients expect to complete several major tasks each day, but when I press them for details on how long each task will take, it becomes clear they’re severely underestimating their time. Falling into this trap is destructive because when your company fails to meet your daily, monthly, or quarterly goals, it hurts your confidence and subsequent performance.
How to Hold Yourself Accountable
Overcoming these psychological traps can be tricky, but finding a way to hold yourself accountable is the best way to move forward. Here are a few methods for making yourself crazy accountable in 2014:
- Get a business mentor. Find someone you respect in your business community, and ask him if he would be willing to sit down with you once a quarter to go over your business goals and progress in exchange for dinner and drinks. Many business owners are already giving back to the community and would be honored to help.
- Build a board of advisors: Getting advisors is similar to finding a business mentor, with the main difference being that you should seek out individuals with the specific skills, education, and training you lack. For example, if you want to build an app to help people lose weight, you should look for experts in app development, exercise, nutrition, and general business development.
- Join a mastermind group: Find a group of two to five other entrepreneurs in your field who are at a similar stage of development as you, and host a monthly mastermind group. Give everyone 10 minutes to provide a quick update on what they’ve accomplished since the last meeting, voice any concerns they may have, ask the group for input, and report on what they’re going to achieve before the next meeting.
- Find an accountability buddy: Find someone who is in a similar situation as you and agree to perform a daily activity with her and measure the outcome. This is similar to having a gym buddy – even though your tasks may differ, having someone to answer to goes a long way toward accomplishing a task.
- Hire an accountability coach: There are a variety of business coaches who specialize in helping business owners and entrepreneurs build accountability structures. They will push you to get clear about your goals and how you’ll measure outcomes.
These five methods have one common denominator: someone holding you accountable for accomplishing your goals. Whether you need the simple presence of a fellow entrepreneur or the expertise and guidance of a board of advisors will depend on your business and your business objectives. Either way, great accountability will challenge you to dig deeper into your company’s potential – making the impossible possible.
2014 could be a year of growth, productivity, and financial success for many entrepreneurs, but only if they hold themselves accountable for making that success happen. Don’t let yourself fall in with the 90 percent of gym members who never go to the gym – prove to yourself that you’ll do what you say you will.
Stephan Wiedner creates kickass accountability systems for solopreneurs. He is also the founder of Noomii.com, the largest directory of independent life and business coaches, and the editor of the Un-Self-Help Blog, a popular resource for research-based self-help that works. Connect with Stephan on Twitter and Google+.
courtesy of author | Kullez