Anytime a new or aspiring entrepreneur asks me for advice, the first thing I tell them is to get both an accountability partner and a mentor. I didn’t know how badly I needed these people in my life until I had them—and I don’t want you to miss out!
An accountability partner is someone in a similar situation or role. They don’t have to be at the same type of organization, but it’s great if they have similar responsibilities. Alternatively, they could be someone who is trying to accomplish a similar goal like writing a book.
Accountability partners are fantastic because they serve as a peer who can almost act like a co-worker or partner without the same strings. You are there to help each other succeed in your goals through, well, accountability.
You’ll be able to accomplish your goals because someone is there to regularly ask about them. It’s the same reason that Weigh Watchers meetings work so well. You take the necessary steps because you’ve got to get on a scale the next week to measure your progress.
You also both show up because you don’t want to let the other person down. Plus, they can provide a perspective and sounding board that you may currently be lacking. And, let’s face it, sometimes you just need to complain to someone who fully relates to your situation. We all have those days!
If you don’t have someone already in mind for your accountability partner, ask friends, family, or even put the word out on social media. It may take some time to find this person, but it will absolutely be worth it.
You might also consider a trial period to make sure you’re a good fit. My previous accountability partner and I had only just met when we decided to test the waters. We agreed to meet twice a month for three months, and we loved it so much we continued for six months. It was a huge boost for both of us—and our businesses!
I think we all consciously, or even unconsciously, crave a mentor. We want “someone who’s been there” to show us the ropes. We are, of course, talking about your working life here, but you could also seek out mentors in marriage, parenting, hobbies, or any number of things.
The only prerequisite for a mentor is that they have more experience in a particular area than you do, and they are willing to share that knowledge. They almost act like a shortcut in that way, helping you bypass more of the struggles to get to more of the wins.
Let me also take a moment to dispel a couple of common misconceptions about mentors. The first is that we commonly picture mentors as much older than ourselves, but that isn’t always true.
My mentor Holly is only a couple of years older than I am, but she is CFO at a nonprofit called Growing Leaders, so she has vastly different experience than me. (One of those being that she’s good with numbers, ha!) She sort of serves as my all-around life mentor. We talk about everything, and often, that includes my business.
I had another mentor for over a year, Christina, who created The Contract Shop. She is actually over a decade younger than me, but had the experience of selling online products which I wanted to learn. So, while you may be seeking someone much older than you for one reason or another, you certainly don’t have to.
And because I also work with cause-focused organizations on both the for- and non-profit side, it’s also helpful to have mentors in both spaces.
With those two examples, you may have guessed the second misconception, and that is that you only need one mentor. Holly is the one who turned me on to this concept. She has multiple mentors that fill different roles in her life and career. Some she sees regularly, and some she may only see once a year. I really love that, and want to follow her example.
In my experience and in talking to others, mentors are much more difficult to find. It was six years of searching between finding Holly and my previous mentor. And I only had Christina for just over a year before her work got too crazy to maintain our appointments. So, I know how daunting it can be to find a mentor.
But again, I suggest that you start by asking your network. And even if you have the perfect person in mind, but they seem to already have a lot of commitments, never assume they’re too busy to fill that role. Make the ask, and be okay with hearing no, but don’t let an assumption keep you stuck. Mentors often get as much out of the relationship as mentees, so it’s definitely a mutually-beneficial situation.
Honestly, you may also just need to be patient. Don’t give up, but be okay with waiting. You’ll be so glad you did!