Accountability Partners: An Essential Ingredient In Leadership Development

Millions of dollars have been invested in leadership development programmes over the years. What results should we expect to see in our leaders and in our organisations after such training?

I have learned there is one essential ingredient to ensure learning is implemented – having accountability partners.

Many of us set leadership learning goals in isolation. We may be responding to 360-degree feedback or from encouragement from our managers. Our learning goals might be shared with our coach or the provider of a leadership programme. During the programme, we might have profound insights, keep a learning journal, and share our learning with workshop coaches and programme peers. But on returning to work, the immediate and urgent tasks take precedence over what’s important. The pressure is on: there are stakeholders to respond to, tasks to complete, and results to produce.

Our learning commitments fall into the background.

Hats off to the Center for Creative Leadership in identifying learning accountability as an essential tool for implementing leadership learning. In the late 1980’s I participated in CCL’s Workshop in Organisation Action (and then brought the programme to the NZ College of Management in 1989). Six months after the programme I received a letter! How was I doing in implementing my learning goals? I realised my CCL trainers had me in their thoughts, and really wanted to know how I was going. They wanted me to be successful. This process changed my life.  

A core success ingredient of the Executive Presence programme, and in my team and individual coaching practice, is inviting leaders to establish accountability partners. 

Here’s an example: One of the innovative teams I’ve worked with is producing inspiring results.

Liz and Oliver reported, Manoj called us in around the table as his accountabilibuddies* (credit: Southpark) and said,’Tell me what you have noticed.’ He demanded we let him know how we were doing on the goals he had set.”

Liz: ‘…this was an exciting conversation to be part of.‘ leadership accountability

Oliver:‘We could see he really wanted to know. His commitment to developing motivated metoo.We’re proud to hold each other to account like this – being a sounding board and helping out. It’s a great process – and it strengthens us individually and as a team.’

Leaders change their behaviours with accountability partners alongside them.

This is done by choosing people you know who want to see you succeed and who are willing to hold you accountable to produce results. Letting your accountability partners know what you want to achieve and then inviting them to give you feedback several months down the track on the impact they have noticed with your new behaviours, changes lives. 

A core ingredient in ensuring value for money with leadership development is having accountability partners. For you personally, inviting two to three others in this role with you each time you set goals and decide actions is core to your success. Don’t go it alone. You may be independent and resourceful, no question. Inviting others to companion you, noticing how you apply what you learn, and have fresh eyes looking out for results, creates partnerships and inspiration.

Who might you choose to hold yourself accountable for implementing your new leadership learning? 

 © Diana Jones