This year, I found an accountability partner to help me meet writing deadlines, increase the rate at which I pitch ideas to editors and guide me through tough decisions. AHCJ core topic leader for infectious diseases Bara Vaida and I have been meeting over Zoom once a month, and I believe the relationship is already yielding benefits. I recently decided to stop working for a publication for which I have been a contributing writer for decades — the 12,000-word articles had become too burdensome — and Bara’s feedback and support were crucial.
I also have a more spur-of-the-moment accountability partner in freelance journalist Melba Newsome. We call and text each other when we hit writing roadblocks, need pitching advice or want to blow off steam.
I am not the only AHCJ member who has found value in having an accountability partner. “For me, working with an accountability partner has helped me through the rough spots when my personal life has been challenging,” said AHCJ board member and freelance journalist Jeanne Erdmann. “Knowing that I had a deadline to finish a pitch by a scheduled meet-up helped keep my career on track. Plus, the friendships you build and deepen through this process give you a larger safety net.”
Last September, AHCJ’s monthly Lunch and Learn video chat for freelancers focused on finding and keeping accountability partners. Recently, I wrote a tip sheet to guide members who would like to explore such a relationship.
Here are a few key points from that tip sheet.
What is an accountability partner?
According to the employment Indeed, accountability partners typically:
- Meet regularly.
- Listen and offer one another advice.
- Offer support in difficult situations.
- Remind one another of important deadlines.
- Point out self-defeating behaviors.
Characteristics of an effective accountability partner
Partners should be someone who:
- Meets deadlines by showing up for meetings and taking goal setting seriously.
- Is trustworthy and will keep confidences.
- Inspires respect so that you will not want to disappoint them.
- Provides honest feedback with kindness.
- Is positive and encouraging and wants you to succeed.
- Is curious and open-minded and interested in learning and growing.
- Is flexible.
Maintaining the partnership
- Show up, don’t cancel.
- Accept your partner’s feedback.
- Take the partnership seriously and try hard to meet the goals set in your meetings.
- Only focus on your writing and your problems.
- Get sidetracked into talking at length about personal matters.
- Shame your accountability partner if they don’t meet their goals.
- Focus only on your goals and writing.
The tip sheet offers further suggestions for structuring regular meetings with your accountability partner, setting the parameters at the very beginning of the relationship, and finding an accountability partner in the first place.