Stay on Track with Your Career Goals: Create an Accountability Team
One big problem we all have when it comes to pursuing our goals is losing focus or momentum. You see it the most with people trying to lose weight. They get all excited in a flurry of planning and preparation, only to poop out a month later. The same thing happens to us for almost all of our undertakings unless the amount of time between launch and finish is seriously short, like a month or two.
Very few career goals can be achieved on such a short time frame; so how can you avoid this familiar trap?
First, it’s important to understand the mechanism of change in us humans. Unfortunately, the loss-of-momentum scenario I painted occurs about 60-70% of the time, according to important researchers and doctors like Dr. James Prochaska. Even in the face of death induced by poor lifestyle choices, that statistic holds true. It’s very hard to make changes without the appropriate mechanisms in place
The good news is, those mechanisms can be simple enough to put into place.
The primary mechanism you must establish is accountability. Accountability is one of those things that come built-in at work. You get an assignment and a list of people, like your boss and peers, who expect you to get it done. BAM! Accountability.
Sure, you’d like to think you’re mature and professional enough you don’t need someone lurking over your shoulder to make you do things. But that’s only partially true. You may not need someone to over-manage you, but like most of us, you do need to know that someone will be expecting you to produce something.
That’s why it’s tough to do things on your own. You have only yourself to be accountable to and, quite frankly, we’re all kind of pushovers. We can rationalize why doing something else right now is fine to do rather than working on something that will support our career goals. Next thing you know, you’ve done that enough times you don’t even think about your action plan until it’s too late or past due.
Here’s how to build the right kind of accountability:
Identify Your Support Structure
It may be enough to have simply one person in your corner to help you, but more than likely it will be a team, each person having different roles.
Your boss is the first and most likely person to engage in your career plan and to help keep you accountable. In addition, consider securing a mentor in your workplace. You may also want to have a career coach who will not only follow up with you, but tap into your deepest vision of what you want for yourself.
Identify Regular Follow-Up
Schedule in advance the specific day and time you will follow up with each person on your accountability team. It doesn’t have to be all in the same week; you can stagger your follow-up time.
The key to this step is that it is on both your schedule and the other person’s. You both know what this time is to be used for, and that makes it tougher to push out or reschedule. With busy schedules the way they are, if you wait until the last minute to get time with another person, you may still be waiting.
Establish Accountability “Rules”
When you identify your team, you need to lay out the kind of behavior you want from them. You should discuss such things as missing your deadlines or failing to work on something you had committed to do. Obviously, nothing critical will happen as a result of you missing something, but you don’t want the situation so loose that it’s meaningless.
As a coach, when I see someone miss something a time or two, I ask them tough questions like, “What are you avoiding?” or “How can you make this as important as these other things you’ve done?” You don’t want your team to take you out in the parking lot and beat you up, but you also want them to be appropriately tough if they have to keep you going. Talk about all of this up front.
Celebrate Your Milestones
We tend to do significant things and then just blow them off with very little attention. Use your accountability team to take a few minutes to bask in the glow of a well-deserved accomplishment.
You can master your career success by developing your goals and setting up the right structures to help you achieve them. You don’t have to — and shouldn’t try to — “white knuckle” your way to the finish line. In your career, just like in sports, you can have a team to help you win. (Like this thought? Tweet it!)
Who’s on your support team? Who might you like to add? Share your experience in the comments!