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One of the most effective ways for me to implement a new habit or to achieve a big goal that I set is to ensure that I have some sort of accountability framework supporting me.

Whether that be a person, or people, formal or informal or it might be an App that I need to report into every week. Having these points of accountability helps to keep me on track.

So it’s little wonder that when Nic McClanachan told me about her business; The Accountability Circle, I was there in a heartbeat.

The Accountability Circle is a framework that allows female business owners to connect, challenge themselves, make a commitment and get support.

So why is the notion of being held accountable such a powerful tool when it comes to helping us achieve in life? Find out in this episode with the lovely Nic McClanachan.

Website: https://accountabilitycircle.com.au/


Episode Transcript:

Jane:

Hi Nic, and welcome to the How to do Marketing Show

Nic:

Thank you for having me Jane.

Jane:

Such a pleasure. Now, before we actually dive into questions about the importance of accountability, can you just take some time to tell us about the accountability circle and how the framework that you’ve put in place for your accountability groups, as part of the accountability circle works?

Nic:

Yeah, absolutely. So accountability circle is for female business owners. And what I do is I form groups of eight women who meet 10 times a year. It’s generally one once a month. We take January and July off, but once a month. So it’s very regular and rhythmic and it’s at the beginning of every month. So that’s got a lot to do with accountability that is setting up that rhythm, the format itself or there’s a lot of framework that underpins that accountability, but everyone comes ready to share and prepared for that meeting. They report back on how their business is going, is revenue up or down? Is profitability up or down? What are the opportunities in their businesses at the moment? What are the highs and lows? The other thing that we do is every year annually, we form up plan for the next 12 months.

We have a very special process. I know that you know that process, we’ve been through that together, where you write your story, what do you want to be able to say about your business in 12 months time? And you write it like it’s already happened and it should light you up. You should feel, all the feels and get excited and even teary when you read your story out and then we work backwards. So what do I need to be able to achieve those things in my story. And what we do in accountability circle is every three months in depth. We report back on our critical milestones to let everyone else know how we’re going, what we achieved last quarter and what our focus is moving forward for the next quarter. So it’s a lot about working on your business and in your business.

It’s very confidential because in order to share very openly, everyone signs off on a strict confidentiality agreement so that it is very open and people can share, which is a very important part of accountability as well. Yeah, so, in a nutshell, that’s kind of the framework and what comes from that, a beautiful relationships trust connection, and it’s all about growth for our businesses. But invariably, what happens is we grow as people as well. So it’s an amazing forum. I’ve got one group now that’s been nearly going for two years. And where that group is at now, which is, it takes a while to get there. Is if someone comes back and says, yeah, look, I know I said, I was going to do that last quarter. I just didn’t get there because you know, we locked down or whatever it might be, another member will say, so what happened there?

You said that was really critical. What got in your way? What do you need to do differently next quarter? Or how can we help you? And that’s when I know it’s humming, because what often happens is we have so much empathy for other people that we want to say, yeah, it’s been tough. You poor thing. That’s okay. Onwards and upwards next quarter, versus those what seemingly instinctively feel like uncomfortable conversations become natural and a norm for groups like this that want to raise the bar. So I probably told you too much there, but that’s in a nutshell.

Jane:

Yeah, that’s a great description of it. And there’s definitely some questions that I have for you around some of those topics, particularly around the difficult conversations that can sometimes be involved, both for the person who’s holding someone accountable, as well as the person who’s being held accountable. And I’ve joined up with the accountability circle for that exact reason to be held accountable because, I feel like as a business owner and other business owners might relate to this when it comes to working on your business or putting time aside to work on your business, it’s often something that can be really easy to push aside, because things happen in your business, you need to fight fires and you might have the best laid out plans to work on the business.

But when you need to actually sort a problem out, or if you need to actually address an issue immediately, like COVID, for example, it’s really hard to not get pulled in and sucked into that. And we all know how quickly time goes and before a month’s gone and you’re like, oh crap, I didn’t get that done. That’s another month that I didn’t get to that. And so to actually have those other people and a process and the framework, and I really actually liked the questions that you ask as part of that accountability, because they’re actually questions. Even though I look at my numbers all the time, I didn’t have a rhythmic, apart from probably quarterly, I didn’t have a rhythmic and I didn’t kind of look at a specific set of numbers.

Do you know what I mean? I was kind of looking at different numbers. So to actually go back and revisit those numbers each month and be forced to revisit those numbers. And I don’t know about anyone else too, but you know, sometimes when it’s going to be a bad story, you might just not check the numbers for that. You know, it’s all good to go and check the numbers when you think they’re going to tell a good story. So I think that that model, and that’s what appealed to me, I guess that leads me to my next question. Why do you think that as humans, that we need to be held accountable in order to achieve these goals and to make stuff happen? Like what is it about this accountability with humans that gets us going?

Nic:

Yeah, so I think we possibly don’t think we need accountability in actual fact, and you’ve kind of raised pretty often when we are heading to the unknown, its sparks our fight or flight response. So accountability can be uncomfortable and have some undesirable responses. It more comes down to the fact that we care deeply about what other people think about us. And we want them to think good of us or well of us. And so when it comes to accountability, if we know someone else’s watching. So for example, if we know seven P’s that we respect are watching, it can be a really powerful motivator. And I’ve pretty much directly quoted there from James Clear. He’s one of my heroes. I use his work in my framework a lot. So he wrote a book called atomic habits, and I just wouldn’t recommend this book for accountability.

I’d recommend it for life in general and what he talks about. If you want to make a big change or you want to achieve something big, it’s often about the small, almost insignificant decisions, because habit is a decision initially then decisions that become ritual that achieved remarkable results. And that definitely relates to accountability. And one of my favorite tips from James’ book, and he actually kind of puts this as a foundation, is that often we think about what it is that we want to achieve, whether it be a change or whether it’s an opportunity in business or life versus maybe asking the question, stop, focusing on what it is you want to achieve and start asking yourself, who do I want to become? Because that changes everything. So in the example of the accountability, if you want to be someone that wants to be more accountable, maybe the question is, who do I want to become?

Who’s good at this and what are they doing? And I know this story, I share this story a bit when I talk about accountability and it’s a little bit different to business. So I was born with a birth defect in my right foot. In my right foot. It was called a vascular malformation. And it meant that I couldn’t do any high impact exercise at all from about the age of 17. So couldn’t run or do certain classes at the gym or whatever it was. And I always swore if I ever got it fixed, I’d run a marathon. And I said it so often that, if I ever got it fixed. Anyway, I ended up going every five years to go see my vascular physician and surgeon and nothing. They could do nothing.

And it was five years ago. Finally, the technology caught up and I had five operations. The last one was major. I was in hospital for a week, 70 stitches in the bottom of my foot, and I got my foot fixed and I’m like, crap, well, I guess I need to run a marathon now. And so because I used to own fitness centers. I used to own three from women’s health clubs. So I have asserts rounds from fitness. I know a fair bit about this, I’ll just download a program and I’ll run my first half marathon. And I ended up overloading my training. I tried, I went too hard, too fast, and I ended up with a stress fracture in my femur and couldn’t run for six months, so absolutely failed, because I thought about the goal too hard.

And I wasn’t surrounding myself with people that had already been to that destination. And so once I healed the next time I tried to do it, I joined up with a running group and all of these people had run half marathons and marathons. Some of them are newbies like me. And I listened to my coach and I trained twice a week and I did my homework and I am so not a natural runner at all. But within the space of one year, I ran a half marathon in New Zealand and the New York marathon later that year. And that is because I took James Clear’s advice. It’s who do I want to become? I actually want to become a runner. It became less about wanting to run the half marathon and the full marathon. And I understood these people, running was part of their lives and how they live, their lives was to support that. And that’s who I became, but I kind of learnt that lesson backward and the same goes for accountability. So if you want to achieve anything, but if you want to be more accountable in your business and I hear business owners explain what you explained you know, often it’s who do I need to become and who do I need to surround myself with?

Jane:

Create the right environment to succeed. Yeah. I love that. So that kind of answers my next question, because my next question was, how do we use accountability to achieve a goal? But I think that’s what you flipped on its head in terms it’s not necessarily about the goal or the action of running a marathon. It’s more about, well, what’s the person that kind of sits behind that goal. Is that right?

Nic:

Yeah. Look, I think there’s some other things like, so I think that’s the starting point. I think if I look at people that are naturally very good at accountability or have worked their habits so hard that they are good at accountability, I think there is a few key things that they do. The first thing they do is they write it down. They write it down and they capture it. And, part of that is making it visual, reading it out regularly. And you also want to make sure it lights your fire. It gives you energy because you want to make it obvious and make it desirable, which again is very James Clear, right? So you want it to light your fire. So yeah, they definitely write it down. The second thing that it was, is to share it, so they share it with others.

And again, this is not going to play circles. We can be really open and share, so if you’ve got a supportive partner, you don’t always have a supportive partner or they might be supportive, but not quite in whatever it is that you want to achieve, but a partner or someone else that’s doing it and wants to play in space. And but sharing it. And because when you do share it, it makes it real, it puts it out to the universe and then it’s someone else to come in again. Cause it comes back to, we deeply care about what others think about us. We’re more likely to achieve it. The other thing they do is they make routine time to work on it. So it’s one thing to write it down and share it with others.

But what is your routine time to work on it? And you touched on this before as a business owner. It’s so easy just to shove that stuff aside and something that I do. I love rhythms and  I have time blocks that I have scheduled in my diary every Monday. Cause I’m really good on a Monday, I get less distracted on a Monday as the weight goes on, I get more distracted. So that’s when I have my one-on-one meetings with my team, our team meetings. And I have a block of three hours every Monday. I have no technology on everything’s off. And that is when I’m working on my critical milestones. And that it’s three hours a week. That is nothing like think how much time we watch Netflix or scroll on social media. But I never have that offer that time up for facilitation, for coaching to do business development, to do a podcast recording like this.

I don’t even give anyone the opportunity to ever take that space from me. It’s always in school hours, so I know that the kids are at school. So again, making that time for it. And the final thing I’d be saying is revisiting it and updating it. And again, we do that in an accountability circle every month, every quarter we are revisiting it, do we need to update it? Do we need to, you know, the word of COVID is pivot, but we need to be nimble. What do we need to change about it? And that’s one of the reasons in accountability circle, we only plan one year out. We ask our members to play a big game, let’s stretch these, like, what do you want to be able to say in 12 months time, but three and five years is hard. It’s hard when it comes to accountability. So, yeah, they’re the tips I would give someone, but the biggest one is who do you want to be and surround yourself with people that have already been to that destination and not just get advice from them, implant yourself, find a way to become part of that community. And be there regularly. Yes.

Jane:

Yeah. And look, I do something really similarly on a Monday because I’m the same, I’ve found that I just love to be able to ease the work into the week, knowing that I’ve worked on my business. So then if the week thing goes pear shaped and I agree, like there’s just less chance of clients dropping into my inbox or stuff happening that needs my immediate attention on a Monday. So that generally starts dropping into my inbox on a Tuesday, Wednesday. And if I was to leave working on my business to a Friday, it wouldn’t happen because Friday generally I’m chasing my tail. Like all the stuff that I didn’t get to, or that’s taking me longer than I anticipated. So Mondays really worked for me there too. And similar kind of thing. That’s generally when I work on things like my marketing and my podcasting and those sorts of things. But one question I had from that, and that’s a tactical question. So if you’re not on technology at all, how do you work on your critical milestones?

Nic:

Yeah. So when I say I’m not, my email alerts are off. I’m not on social media, I put my phone on airplane mode, so I get no alerts and I do not disturb on my computer, so I might be online, but I’m not connected. If that makes sense. I’m connected in the way that I choose to be connected. So, yeah.

Jane:

Okay. And the other thing, I really liked your point there about revisiting because one of the things that was an initiative of yours that I learned at business club and was put together with another accountability partner at business club, because we had this session on accountability and habits. I think it was, and we’ve been working every day on a Monday. This is one of my Monday, every Monday, we get together for a half an hour chat and we’ve set our kind of goals and the habits that we want to be held accountable to. And it’s funny, some of the times you will reach that goal. And then you’re like, well, I don’t need that habit anymore because you know, I’ve done that. Or I found that sometimes my priorities change and I was wondering, I was like, am I just being shiny new thing? Like, can you do that with habits and accountability? Can you kind of be working on something and then go actually no, this is not where I need to be spending my time. I’m going to switch that goal out and put this one in.

Nic:

I think that is really important and not at the excuse of avoiding something when it’s too hard, that’s for the wrong reason. But I actually think what often when people set goals, you then look at businesses that aren’t doing well and just, they continue to like slug through that mud. And basically go broke before they give it up. But was there a point there where they need to say, this is the wrong path? We need to change our focus, change our habits, change what our goals are and being nimble. So I actually think it’s really important, but I think that’s where having either one other person or a group of people to bounce that off, that do know you and that you do trust that you can say, I’m just not sure. So yeah, I think being nimble like that and revisiting it and updating it when you need to, and again that’s why we only work in 12 months because generally then there’s not too much of that. There might be a little bit of tweaking cause opportunities that can come across a business that completely supersede what it was that you were working on or something that you thought was going to be amazing. Turns out to be a dead end. Well, are you going to keep flogging it? Are you going to change your focus? Yeah.

Jane:

Yeah, totally. And accountability. It’s not something that is just restricted to business as well. I mean, you gave the example of the marathon and running the marathon and I think accountability and exercise is probably one that most people can relate to. And I know very purposely I’ve kind of set myself up and I guess set the environment where I will be not held accountable. Like it’s not like my swimming squad or my running group are like Jane, you didn’t come last week. You know, what’s your reasons? But they do notice if you’re not there. So I’ve kind of deliberately put myself in these regular swim squads or running groups, or exercise groups where, everybody else is going to be turning up that morning, and if you’re not there, you’re going to have to have some sort of an excuse, even though they probably don’t really mind.

Nic:

And they probably miss you, like, I don’t know about you, but my running group never, if I missed a session, they wouldn’t have been, where were you? They would have been like, where are you mate? We missed you. But yeah, there’s, no, it doesn’t have to be a harshest to that. When we’ve committed to someone else, we’re more likely to let ourselves down, but because we deeply care about what others think of us and we all do that, we will rock up.

Jane:

Yeah and it’s great. And it certainly helps me like my swim squad. I think I’ve been swimming in that like at least weekly, if not twice weekly for 10 years. And particularly in the winter when it’s freezing, it’s an outdoor pool, but it is like a bath. So before anyone thinks that I’m mad, they’re the warmest place to be actually. But the idea of getting up when it’s dark and it’s cold, and the last thing you feel like doing is getting down to your togs and getting in water. But just knowing that this is what I do every week, people expect me to be there. I expect me to be there. I’m going to be disappointed with myself, but I go because this is my weekly ritual and I’m going to feel like something’s missing all day so they can be really powerful.

But I’d like to deep dive into when this becomes a little bit confronting. And when this, you kind of touched on this before. So when you’re trying to make yourself accountable to a time or a scenario where you’re getting pushed out of your comfort zone, as you mentioned before, sometimes we have an ability to be in the right mind frame and go, right. I’m going to do this. I’m going to run that marathon. And cause you’re feeling really good at that point. And you’re feeling like you want to do that, or I want to cut down on my drinking or I want to start a business and you might be working for somebody else. And you know, in that mind frame and you put all the environment and place you go, yes.

And I’m going to be held accountable and I’m going to do this. And then you start the journey and realize that it’s going to be really fricking hard and that person. So you’ve put your accountability in place and it’s actually going to be some confronting conversations. If you’ve got a group that genuinely hold you accountable, there’s potentially going to be some confronting conversations about addiction or something like that. There’s got to be some awkward moments, awkward conversations. And as you said, I think it’s really easy for the person who’s holding that person accountable to have the empathy, to see that person in pain or a bit of discomfort and go, oh, look, don’t worry about it, mate. You know, do your best and try again next week. What would you recommend around putting an accountability structure in place for this kind of situation? Both for the person being held accountable and the person holding someone accountable?

Nic:

Yeah. Such a good question. I think it sounds like I’m repeating myself again, but I think this is really important. So it’s really rather than focusing on the goal that you want to achieve. So it’s a pretty serious topic, but let’s say I might, recently I realized I was drinking three or four coffees a day, so that’s an addiction. It’s a simple addiction and there’s lots more serious addictions. And it was just a slippery slope basically that landed, landed me there. So I decided that I wanted to a cut back to just one a day. I’m drinking, I’ve got my little decaf coffee here this morning and just one caffeinated coffee a day. And you know, there’s lots of pressure. Like that’s kind of socially unacceptable when you have coffee meetings and people laugh at you when you order decaf.

And even sometimes the staff that you order it from laugh at you, what’s the point kind of thing. And you know, so live in Bondi and it’s like coffee central. Yeah, so there’s a lot of social stigma around this, right? And I really thought about this. I’m like, what is it I want? And I have a deep desire to be a healthy person, very deep desire to live a healthy life. And so I’m a big fan of Dr. Libby. I don’t know if you know Dr. Libby, she’s amazing. And I got to meet her six years ago and one of her things is we need to cut back on caffeine. It’s such a blocker for our liver and it really compromises. And I’ve known this for six years, but this year I made the decision, No.

Now I didn’t make it about my goal was not, I want to give up caffeine. My goal was, I want to be more healthy. I want to be. So I think that’s really important before you start. I want to live more healthily and I eat well and I exercise and all of those kinds of things, but this was something that had become a problem in my life. So I think that first and foremost is really important. And there were definitely moments where it became uncomfortable. I had the headaches, I had the withdrawals. I wasn’t a very nice mum for several days. It was hard and I was so tired, but I just kept reminding myself, why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I want to live a healthy life. Why am I doing this?

Anything that’s worth achieving is uncomfortable. And if it was easy, anyone would be doing it. You know, having those mantras are really important. So that’s what I would say on an individual level, in terms of, if you set yourself up in an accountability circle or a group it helps sometimes I think for there to be some kind of external moderation or framework for that, because something that’s like I mentioned to you before confidentiality underpins everything I do in accountability circle. So what is said in that room stays in that room. And what that enables us to do is build trust. And that takes time. It often, it’s pretty fast track though, when it is highly confidential and everyone’s sharing so openly. So, when you connect with the people that you want to be held accountable by, or you want to become making sure that it’s a safe pace and where there is trust, so that if someone does pull you up, you know why they are.

I think that’s really important because one of the things we do as humans is when we get feedback, our little amygdala straightaway goes fight or flight. It is a natural response, but coming back to why you’re doing it, what it is that you want to achieve and being with people that, only want what’s best for you definitely helps it. This stuff is hard. I use that quote like I said to you, I am so not a natural runner. Like I have biomechanical issues for my foot that you see me run and it’s not pretty. And I can run pretty fast over short distances, but I’m a Slugger, I’m slow. And there’s plenty of times when you’re on a 30 kilometer plus run that you want to give up and you’re just like, this is too hard.

But those matches of why am I doing this? Why am I doing these? If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s not meant to be easy. And I tell you, I will never in my life, forget that last mile, crossing the line in New York. I will never forget that moment. Like, I worked so hard for that. And that’s what it was about. And now, I can run, I am a runner and I actually, another story, I hope you don’t mind. Another story was, it was about six weeks before we ran the marathon. And it was about 15 of us having a chat before we did our track session. I hate track sessions, but anyway, we were chatting and I can’t remember what the conversation was, but I said something like, you know, I’m not a runner, but blah, blah, blah. And this other woman, Claire, who’s probably been running for five years and she’s like, Nic, you are a runner. And I’ll never forget that moment. I kind of felt like I had to achieve the marathon to say that I’m a runner. And she’s like, you’re running three times a week. You were just about to run. Now you are a runner. And I think sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

Jane:

Yeah. So for the person being held accountable, if you’ve got that bigger, why it comes back to that kind of purpose and that why that’s really important to you, but also what I take from that too, is being really realistic with yourself on this is not actually going to be easy. So that’s, as you said, giving up an addiction is not easy and there is going to be a little bit of pain, physical, emotional that’s involved there. But everything ends, I’m just so in the notion of impermanence at the moment. And I love that I do a lot of yoga and I love what that taught me in terms of leaning to that discomfort, knowing that it will end. And if you’ve lent into the discomfort, you end up a better person on the other side.

And sometimes like, you just can’t avoid that. So I think that’s really, really good advice. What about for the person that’s got a hold the person accountable. So for that person who might find it a bit confronting when someone goes off. So say, for example, let’s talk about, someone’s trying to give up wine or someone’s trying to give up coffee. Yeah. Well, food, like, I try to go on a diet and it gets to a point where, you know, you do the first three or four days or whatever the period is that you feel like you’re strong. And then it starts to become really hard and coffee, I think works really quickly. I did Dr. Libby last year as well. And I remember within days I was getting the aches and the pains, but then it was over like, that’s over. But for things like alcohol addiction or food addiction where you’re like, that’s a big part of our social culture, culture. And so much of our lifestyle is based around that. So even you might get through the first week or the first two weeks, but then you’re constantly faced with these opportunities to kind of fall off the wagon. So say so to speak, what about for someone holding someone accountable there? Because there’s going to be some tough times.

Nic:

Yeah. Yeah. So if someone has shared with you that they want to have a healthier diet or gcut back on alcohol, whatever it might be, and they’re talking to you about, and this is my goal and a really good thing can be, is to say, would you like me to support you on that and call you out? If you go off the road and most people say yes, when they’re saying what it is. The other thing I would say is, why are you doing this? How can you reframe it? So it’s less about the giving up the addiction, but what it is that you want, I want to be healthy. I want to be fit so I can play with my kids.

I want to be okay. So like really understand that then when it actually happens, when a slip happens and they share that with you, the best tip I can give is to ask questions. And so in that example, I gave a little bit earlier I said, where the member said, I didn’t get to that critical milestone cause you know, COVID. Yeah. And I think I said, what happened? What were the triggers? What could you do differently next quarter? What can I do to support you? That’s where that’s where a real powerful conversation can be. Versus like, I thought you said you were going to… I thought you said this was important. Come on, get back on track. You want to do this. It’s a very different conversation asking those open questions. What could you do differently next time? Was there a trigger that you noticed? Yeah, what’s a barrier that we maybe need to look at and break down. So just getting really curious and asking open questions, I think is one of the best ways to hold someone to account.

Jane:

And so say for example, in a business environment. Like with your accountability circle, if somebody was to say I’ve got a really aggressive goal of you know, increasing my revenue or switching a different direction in my business and you know, that becomes quite hard to do. And they give up, what’s the role of the accountability circle or the people who are holding them accountable then.

Nic:

In an accountability circle, so that might be the goal is to say, start a new division in the business. Let’s make up one, start a new division in my business that I think could be great. And so the first thing they’ll do is they’ll write a story of exactly what that looks like and make sure that it lights them up. Right. So they’re getting attached to it. They’ve written it like it’s already happened and then they break it down into milestones. So the milestone won’t be to start this new division, the milestone will be probably five different milestones and written like it’s already happened. Yeah. And then every month what they’re doing is they’re taking one action for every critical milestone to break that down. Does that make sense? It’s a different game.

Jane:

It’s really in the planning. So yeah. Now that totally makes sense. So treat the goal seriously or treat the commitment or the priority seriously and apply yourself yeah. Put a framework in place with milestones because yeah, I think that’s where I’ve gone wrong in the past. If I’ve set a goal, cause I’m really good at setting goals, but I hate detail and I hate having to sit there and plan that out. Do you know what I mean? And that’s probably where I’ve where I fell and it becomes too overwhelming. Like you kind of started. Yeah. And then, what next? I’ve run out of things that I know what to do here. And so that’s when it’s really easy to quit. Cause you go out, it’s too hard. But if you’ve put the proper planning in place in the beginning, it makes it very difficult to do that. And probably by putting that proper planning and framework in place in the first place, you’re actually going to work through it. And it’s probably going to prove the viability of that goal or viability of your idea or whatever you’re trying to achieve.

Nic:

Yeah, absolutely. And it sounds like what I’m explaining might sound technical or hard. It’s actually not, but the story process takes us four hours. So we’ve got a plan. And then I mentioned to you three hours a week of working on it. And once a month, one hour of that three hours is me saying, okay, here are my critical milestones. What’s one action I can take with all of these things. It often just comes down to one action. What’s one action. I can get one step closer because often what we do is we’ve got to get here, where do I start? Actually, you’ve got 12 months of the year. What’s one action you can take this month to get one step closer. What’s one action you can take next month. And then you have the superpower of seven of your keys. They’re watching you, but not only watching you wanting it for you as well, which makes you want it more for yourself.

Jane:

Yeah. A hundred percent. And obviously the accountability circle is one option for people or setting up something similar. Some could actually put yourself in a group of other business people or other like-minded people and do that yourself. But in terms of the who and who to turn to, is it better – Because again, coming back to that situation where you kind of want someone to be a bit robust with their accountability, like you don’t want people to let you off the hook easily. Yeah. So is it better to go and surround yourself with people who you’re really close to or perhaps go to people who have that little bit more distance so that there’s not so much of an emotional or an empathetic connection there?

Nic:

Yeah. Yeah. Great question. Megan Winter, who is someone that we both know is a great business woman who owns Unstoppable E-commerce and I’m a client of Megan’s and she’s a client of mine. So it’s super cool, but she says it brilliantly. And she said, when you, when you want to achieve something, go to someone who’s already been to the destination, work with people who are either doing it or have been there and you can spend time with and ask questions with and be involved with. And so I’m really lucky. I my wife Liska is also a business woman, extremely high achiever. And so she’s great at holding me accountable. So I’m really fortunate. So just because she’s my closest person is kind of irrelevant when it comes to accountability. But not everyone has that. But I think it’s about who are the people that are doing it that are playing that game that are in the arena, happy to fall in the dirt with you as well, or they’ve already been to that destination and can share that experience with you. Yeah.

Jane:

That’s a really good way of putting it and yeah. Good advice Megan. All right. Now what about accountable habits and accountability? So it was spoken about kind of the planning and the framework and the environment and the who. How do creating habits cause James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits’ talks about accountability, but there’s a lot of information there about forming habits and how forming habits to become the person you want to be or achieve. The goal you want to achieve is integral. So how do they interrelate?

Nic:

I think if you want to be more accountable to yourself or to others, I think you can’t be accountable without habits. And I don’t think you can have habits without accountability. Like I just see them as so connected. And that’s probably why James Clear’s work just like resonates for me. I love his email that comes out once a week. I’m like, yes, it’s landing my inbox early on a Friday morning. It’s there. I probably read his book three or four times. I love his work, but I see them as you can’t have one without the other. And you know, you think about anyone who’s achieving something and you watch what they do. They will have great habits and now either hold themselves accountable or they have a framework where others hold themselves to account. I think the two go hand in hand.

And what someone’s habits that they have won’t necessarily work for you it’s about you finding the right habits for you? For me, exercise, I have to do it the moment I get up. Otherwise the rest of my day will get in the way. Other people are different, so whatever works for you and James talks about habit stacking. So recently it was probably about 12 months ago. I was meditating, very irregularly and I, I just, I couldn’t get in a habit and I really wanted to, and I went back to James’works, like habit stack. So now I meditate immediately after I finished a training session. So the two just go bang, bang. Yeah.

Jane:

Oh yes. I do remember that part. I love his newsletter too. You put me onto that. And I have read his book but I might have to go back and read it again. I know for me getting my head around the habits was really hard because I’m a D type personality I can set a goal and I can operationalize, I’m really good at taking action. So when you first put us in those accountability partners and said, now define the habits that you will need to do each week. I found it really hard to not just put actions. So to reach that goal or to be that person, here’s all the actions that I will need to take. Cause that’s how I think. So to actually put those into weekly habits for me keep, it really did take a lot of thinking to go, okay. As opposed to writing actions, what are the things that I can do? And I think it’s so easy to use exercise in these examples. To have that simple thing in terms of meditate after exercise each week, become someone with a healthier mind and a healthier body is a perfect example, but it did actually take me a while to get my head around how to do that.

Nic:

And I think that’s unusual for business owners because often business owners are entrepreneurial. They’re high achieving they’re very outcome focused and might have a to do list but they’ll be wanting for more like I want to do more. And why am I struggling to achieve the things that I’m saying that I want to? And so come back to who do I want to be? And then what are the habits that I need to create and yeah.

Jane:

What are some of the mistakes to avoid? So when we’re thinking about becoming accountable, what are some of the traps we can fall into there?

Nic:

Yeah, one of the first ones is, if we don’t achieve what we set out to do, we immediately beat ourselves up. And the other thing we do is like, we’re focused so much on the outcome instead of just focusing in the present and what’s immediately in front of us. So let’s say we keep using the exercise analogy cause it’s easy and it’s universal, right? Let’s say you miss a training session. And then often then what happens to people that are trying to get fit or trying to achieve a fitness goal is, then it spirals and then they stop working out. So it’s okay. Be kind to yourself. I missed today’s, but I am not going to miss tomorrow. I’ve not lost anything all I have lost is just one thing and really making sure that you get back that next day. The other thing is, maybe at first make it a little bit easier, make it a little less painful.

So sometimes we have these massive goals. Like I said, I used to say, I’m going to run a marathon when I get my foot fixed, but I didn’t start with a marathon. I started with a half, which is still ridiculously hard, , but you know, I started smaller. Right. So you know there’s still plenty more time and when COVID is all over that we will have plenty more events and plenty more marathons to be done. So starting smaller is like putting those building blocks in place. So rather than saying, I want a million dollar business, you know what? I could pay the bills if I hit 250K, I could pay the bills, let’s start there that first year. So even that is getting a business off the ground and hitting that 250K, that’s a huge achievement.

The other thing I would say is when you’re finding it hard. So, you know, those moments when you think, it’s just so much work or I can’t get out of bed and go for a swim today. It’s like, okay, just to start. Yeah. Just start, I’ll just do 10 minutes. Yeah. And that’s often what will get you through, just get up and put put your togs on. Yeah. And now just walk down to the car and now just so often just breaking it down that little bit more and you know what, I might just do five minutes in the pool. Yeah. Invariably five minutes will turn into 50. Yeah. So I think that again, a lot of what I’ve just quoted is James Clear but I think that’s the key is don’t go too high too early. Just those smaller chunks and milestones, don’t be too hard on yourself. But just don’t let another day pass. Yeah. Make sure you’ve got it the next day. And the third is when you’re in those moments and you thinking, I’ll just do 10 minutes. I’ll just do the next step. I’ll just do the next step. And invariably you get on a roll.

Jane:

Yeah. I love that. Yeah. And I think again, it comes for me if I reflect on my behavior with setting goals or wanting to achieve a certain thing. Yeah. It is often the enormity of what’s involved there. And your example about, I want a million dollar business. You’re absolutely right. Like when you’re just focused on the million dollars and you can see your balance, your PR you know, your P and L and where you are now and you go, that seems enormous. How am I ever going to do that? But I love that example of just breaking that down into two much more realistic steps and working really hard to achieve that first 10 minutes or achieve that first 250 or the next 250 or whatever.

And so you have much more chance of succeeding there. That’s awesome. Oh gosh, Nic, I could just keep chatting to you all day about this. It’s such a fascinating topic and it really does make me reflect, upon the scenarios where I’ve been successful and where I haven’t. And so much of it has come down to that accountability, whether it’s been self accountability or whether it’s been, because I’ve placed myself in some sort of group. And the other thing, and this is one of the things that I’ve loved about the accountability circle. I think too, when you’re looking for different groups or different people to hold you to account, I looked for people who will lift me to the next level, because it’s really easy to be stuck within people who you love and who have certainly played a part within your journey, but they’re not going to be your people forever. You know, you then want to take yourself to the next group of, okay, you know, I’m here in my business. Exactly kind of what Megan was talking about, go and find someone who’s then at the next level as to where you want to be and get amongst that.

Nic:

Yeah, definitely. So I screen everyone before they’re accepted into accountability circle, cause I really want to look for values alignment. I’m looking for people with no ego that really want to raise the bar in their business. They want to grow their business and grow themselves, but they’re also very happy to support others to do the same. So I think you know, having that values alignment that there is that everyone in the room only wants growth and only wants what’s best for one another. It’s a very non-competitive environment which I think really lends itself to everyone achieving more.

Jane:

Yeah. Yeah. And for me, like I just, I never want to be the smartest person in the room. I always want to be that little bit uncomfortable going I’m the little guy, I’m the one that needs to grow to meet and match the people who are in this group. So that’s also been a big contributor to where I’ve succeeded in.

Nic:

It’s really interesting to say that because we’ve got women in the group that have businesses that are around that 250K mark, and then we’ve got women that have $30 million businesses. And I’m trying to mix it all in with all stages of life and businesses and the women that have those really big businesses, they have such a humility and such an openness to learn, which is probably one of the reasons they’re so successful anyway. And I see them getting so much value of other women that have been in business for two years and they’re really nimble and so passionate and it lights their fire again. So likewise I see what you’re saying that you want to be with people that are next level up. And I think for those women, I’d say that our next level up that are really humble and still want to learn and grow, join these groups as well. So that’s how it works so beautifully. Yeah.

Jane:

Yeah. I love that. Yeah. That’s awesome. Nic, okay. I think we’ve spoken so much about the accountability circle and what you do there. So if people do want to find out more about the accountability or even want to connect with yourself, where’s the best place that they can find you?

Nic:

Best place is the website. So accountabilitycircle.com.au and we’re on Facebook. So this accountability circle otherwise my name’s Nic McClanahan. It’s a hard one, but you’ll see it on the website. I’m also on socials and we’ve got some spots at the moment in Sydney, Melbourne, a couple left in Melbourne Brisbane, and also Perth had some women in WA contact me and say, “Hey, come over to WA.” I’m like, sure. Okay. yeah. So we’ve got a few circles with spots open at the moment, so yeah.

Jane:

Yeah. And for those of you in regional Australia yes the sessions are held face to face and they are held in a capital city because logistically that does make sense, but I’m obviously in Port Macquarie and I’m in the Sydney group. We have somebody from Newcastle, we have somebody from Canberra. So we have people from everywhere. Don’t feel like, just because you’re in regional Australia, that you can’t access these groups, you absolutely can. And who doesn’t need an excuse to get down to Sydney or to Melbourne, or as you said to Perth. So don’t feel just because you’re in Regional Australia, you can’t access them. So. Awesome. Thank you so much for that, Nic really, really appreciate this chat.

Nic:

Oh my pleasure. Thanks for having me. And hopefully that helps. I feel like I’ve done a big brain dump today, but hopefully that’s helped.

 

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