Have you ever seen an interview with an inspirational woman and thought: ‘What if she were MY friend?’ What would life be like if she were in my corner?
When I muse and dissect these internal conversations, I stop and look around my community of Striped Sisters, reminding myself that I need look no further, as this community is brimming with some very inspirational women!
First off, let’s start with my Accountability Partner, Nicki. Accountability you may ask? That doesn’t sound much fun. Well read on!
Over the many years I have known Nicki, life has proved itself much more exciting when she’s around. Whether she’s dancing with Siberian shamans, scaling the walls of a monastery in Bhutan, or housesitting a bunch of pyjama-wearing donkeys; this is a woman who rarely sits still!
Whenever we meet, Nicki is inevitably embarking on a new adventure, devouring a new book, or musing over her next great project. Her zest for life is both exhilarating and frightening. Simultaneously! When you are in the presence of this particular Striped Sister, her ideas come hurtling at you like one of those balls out of a tennis ball launcher machine! Be prepared to either bat them back or duck, because they come at you at the speed of light.
Having been lucky enough to be Nicki’s co-conspirator in a few of her projects, when she discussed the idea of being each other’s accountability partner, I knew this would be some kind of fun. After discussions over numerous coffees (yes that again!), we’d both realized that, over a considerable amount of time, we’d collated long lists of ideas and plans which remained half-finished or barely started. When we compared our current lists with those of 5 years before, we found, rather sheepishly, that some ideas were still there, carried over from year to year. With a collective groan and an exasperated sigh, we felt we needed to act.
Being active and busy individuals, we knew there were plenty of reasons why these items remained stubbornly on our lists. However, although these ideas seemed budge-resistant, there were beginning to gnaw away at us, so much so, that they could no longer be neglected. It is thus that the Accountability Partner Plan (APP for short) came into being.
For anyone who is familiar with coaching, accountability is a key feature in mobilizing people into action. In short, it is a system whereby you hold someone accountable for their actions or plans and take them to task if they remain exactly that: a PLAN. You know how the saying goes: ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’ – thanks Antoine de Saint-Exupéry! Nicki and I felt that if we held each other accountable for all the ideas, plans and projects gathering dust on our desks and in our minds, and did this often enough, something was bound to shift.
To make this work though we needed…. yes, you’ve guessed it ……. another plan! This actually was easier than we thought. We wanted this to be a serious exercise but if we were going to commit to this, this also required an element of fun. Before long, the APP began to take shape, and this is how it worked.
First we decided that we would see each other once every month for our new APP meeting. Before each meeting we would choose a location in our shared city which we were curious to visit. The criteria were fairly broad – the location merely had to have that element of intrigue. Next – timing. We agreed that the meeting would be a maximum of 2 hours and would be divided up into starting with 20 minutes of social chat (after all we were friends!), 60 minutes of discussing our prospective plans, 20 minutes of deciding on our action points and finishing up with another 20 minutes of social chat. The action points would be written down and the next time we met we would start with the action points and monitor what progress we had or had not made. If progress had stalled then, each one of us would begin our rigorous questioning of why our friend had strayed from the action plan. Naturally, support and advice was always on hand.
What of the results? Well to date, despite the concerns of many that our friendship would become somewhat ‘professional’, in fact it has added an extra layer to our friendship. The APP has proved to be extremely effective, no doubt in part due to our frustration at our previous lack of action. There’s also been the fun element in choosing our next location and a genuine excitement in watching our plans take shape and celebrating each other’s successes both large and small.
Assigning the role of accountability partner to Nicki has not meant she has been less challenging than a professional coach, in fact she has been much more so. If you think that your friend will adopt the soft and cuddly approach, well that certainly hasn’t been my experience. Nicki certainly doesn’t take any prisoners! Although there is the warm support and camaraderie of a good friend, there is also the steeliness of galvanising me into action and as a friend, desperately wanting me to succeed.
So, after a year or two of celebrated successes, and as we entered lockdown, Nicki and I both worried that our APP would lose momentum. However, in this new environment we’ve both found that the APP model works equally well when done virtually and with the heightened knowledge that there is even more reason to act in the time of a devastating pandemic. In these uncertain times, Nicki continues to be resolutely in my corner, a cheerleader for Striped Sisters and a genuine human being who wants others to succeed. Most of all though, I am lucky enough to call her my friend, and that, in itself, is inspiration enough.
© stripedsisters 2021