Why Accountability Partners are Vital to Your Professional Growth with Adam Carroll

  • Accountability Partners - Adam Carroll

Agency owners are creative by nature and as such, our minds are churning 24/7 with ideas and new initiatives we want to experiment with and implement. But which ones are worthwhile? What should we pursue and what should we skip over? It’s helpful to have a sounding board to explore these potential directions before you take off after them.

In this podcast, my guest Adam Carroll has been able to harness the power of great partnerships (accountability partners and mastermind groups) and effective accountability to help determine which ideas really deserve attention and which ones don’t. Adam has been able to rely on his mastermind groups for accountability, brainstorming, and guidance, and he leverages his accountability partners for productivity and challenging his habits and patterns.

Both avenues, accountability partners and/or mastermind groups, are exceptionally valuable to your business because they help you dig a little deeper and hold you accountable.

Adam and I explored these ideas from an agency’s perspective by showing you:

  • How having accountability as an owner allows you to put your time into the ideas that matter, making the most impact for your agency
  • How he makes the most of slow business periods to increase productivity
  • How to find a great accountability partner who will be more concerned with pushing you forward, rather than protecting your feelings
  • How to work on your business, not in your business.
  • How taking five minutes to create a list of the people can help you find your perfect mastermind group.

Adam Carroll is quickly being recognized as one of the top financial educators in the country based on his core message of “you are the architect of your own life.” Adam has presented all over the globe. Over 500 universities have been lucky enough to host him and he has presented some amazing TedTalks all over the world.

In 2014, Adam successfully crowdfunded a documentary on student loan debt titled Broke, Busted & Disgusted, and he raised nearly $70,000 for the film in 45 days. The mission of the film is to start a national debate about changing the way we fund college and not crippling 20-something’s with mountains of debt.

To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/adam-carroll/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.  

If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25+ years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew: Hey there. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. I am your fearless leader Drew McLellan, and my role is to introduce you to guests and ideas and best practices that help you minimize the risk of agency ownership while making the most of all the rewards that can come with it.

As you know, I work with over 250 small to mid-sized agency owners every year. And I know that today’s guest is going to have something to share for all of you. Whether you are ready to hear it or not, that’s going to be up to you, but I know that it’s stuff that we need to talk about and you need to hear. We’re going to talk today about accountability and how difficult that is when you own the joint.

So let me tell you a little bit about our guest before we dive too deep into this effective accountability bit. Adam Carroll is quickly being recognized as one of the top financial educators in the country, with his core message being you are the architect of your own life, and that starts with your behavior around finances and money. Adam has presented all over the globe. Over 500 colleges and universities have been lucky enough to host him. He has been in London where he did an amazing TED Talk. And he’s done TED Talks all over the US as well.

In early 2014, Adam successfully crowdfunded a documentary on student loan debt and raised nearly $70,000 in 45 days. The film, “Broke, Busted, & Disgusted” is being released very soon and is already garnering critical acclaim, and I’m really excited for all of you to see it. It is very eye-opening and something that we need to talk about. The goal of the film is to start a national debate about changing the way we fund college and not crippling 20-somethings with mountains of debt.

So, you would think that Adam and I were going to talk about money today, but instead, we’re going to turn our attention to the idea of being accountable and the idea of using mastermind groups to do that. In full disclosure, there is a special reason why Adam and I are choosing that topic. Adam is a very close personal friend of mine, and for the better part of a decade has been a part of my mastermind group. I can tell you without a doubt that being a part of that group absolutely has changed my business and my life. And so I am very excited to welcome my good friend and mentor, Adam Carroll, to the show. Adam, welcome.

Adam: Drew, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be in front of your tribe. I’m very excited.

Drew: I’m excited too. A couple of other things guys, you’re going to want to check out. Adam was a podcaster long before I jumped into the water and he does, probably my all-time favorite podcast. Ironically, it’s called Build a Bigger Life podcast. He talks to amazing people who have decided that they wanted to do something bigger and better, and really he dives into how they do that and why they do it, and really gets the recipe for how that gets done. So, you’re going to want to check that out wherever you happen to go get your podcasts. We’ll talk more about that I’m sure.

But Adam, let’s talk a little bit about accountability because you and I are both business owners, and it would seem on the surface that one of the perks of owning a business is that you’re not accountable to anybody. So, help me with the psychology and help our listeners with the psychology around why even though it doesn’t sound all that great, why we should want it.

Adam: It’s a really interesting question, Drew, and I think that you hit the nail on the head. We are business owners, and I think by nature we gravitate towards being business owners because we don’t necessarily want to answer to anyone.

Drew: And we’re twisted.

Adam: And we’re twisted, yes. There’s some weirdness that goes on with being a business owner. But I also think that especially your demographic, your tribe, and a lot of the folks that I work with were creatives. And as creatives we have ideas pop every minute. But it’s being able to figure out which of those ideas are worthwhile, and which we should go after and which we shouldn’t. That has become a challenge in my life. And it wasn’t until you and I and Mitch began our mastermind group and I started partnering with some accountability partners that I really began to harness the power of being accountable to what I said I was going to do and what my ideas were and which ones really needed attention and which ones didn’t.

Drew: And what was the outcome for you of that?

Adam: Well, interestingly, I’ve been reading the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. It’s a great eye-opening read. And in it he has this diagram of if you can imagine a circle with arrows coming out from all different angles and sides. He gives that example on the one hand. On the other hand is one circle with one arrow going straight up, much farther, much darker, and much more powerful than the other. I saw that diagram and thought, “This is me. I have multiple paths and avenues that I could go out and find opportunity, and let’s face it, types of revenue, but am I better off going after one or maybe two?” And so having an accountability partner, and actually multiple accountability partners, has been really instrumental for me in saying, “Okay, I have all these great ways of making money, but just because I can make money doing things doesn’t mean I should.”

Drew: Well, and in fact by chasing all of the different ideas, I dilute all of the different ideas because I can’t possibly give all of them my time and attention to the level that they need for the level of excellence that I, a) I want to bring, but b) so I can really dig a deep mine and really get the riches out of one or two of those big ideas, right?

Adam: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, in its simplest form, it’s the 80-20 principle, right? It’s Pareto. Are we spending the highest percent of time on things that are giving us the greatest bang for our buck? I’ll talk candidly about one of my accountability partners who is — again, very candidly, he pisses me off sometimes because he is so laser focused about his feedback to me that sometimes it actually almost stings a bit.

Drew: Yeah.

Adam: And I’ll give you kudos for this too, Drew. You have a way of giving advice, and it’s sort of a duh moment when you say it. I think that sometimes it’s easier to read the label on the outside of the jar than on the inside of the jar.

Drew: Absolutely.

Adam: So having that person like you or like my friend David to give us that kind of feedback. And to hold us accountable to what we said we’re going to do is really, really critical.

Drew: Yeah, when I talk to agency owners, one of the biggest challenges they talk about is that they’re scattered and they can’t actually get their to-do list done, and all of that. I think part of that is a symptom of well, unlike your direct reports and unlike the rest of the people on your staff, nobody is looking over your shoulder and going, “Uh, uh,” or, “This is due today.” We have to do it for ourselves, and quite honestly, we’re really horrible accountability partners for ourselves.

Adam: Absolutely.

Drew: Yeah.

Adam: Absolutely. And what happens as an agency owner or a business owner when there is no carrot and no stick? So some of us will say, “I need to get this done,” but we don’t really build in any layer of accountability in the sense of, “I’m going to bonus myself,” or “I’m going to reward myself for getting this done on time.” And there is really no penalty because if I don’t get it done, well, I own the place, so they have to answer to me, I don’t have to answer to them.

Drew: Right.

Adam: And I think installing someone in your life that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, you’re able to mentor, coach, and hold them accountable, and likewise, they do the same for you, I think that does tremendous things for a person’s business and productivity.

Drew: Yeah. I was just with a group of agency owners and we were talking about time management and maintaining effective accountability and all of that, and somebody suggested that they put one of their staff people in charge of holding them accountable. It was amazing to watch all these agency owners bristle at that idea. That someone who works for them would tell them what to do. While in theory that makes sense, they’re around every day and all of that, the truth of it is we don’t want to be held accountable to somebody whose pay check we write. That’s I think the power of having dual accountability back and forth between two people or a small group of people like a mastermind group, is that these are people who are in your life and in your world but they’re not so in your world that it’s offensive that they hold you accountable.

Adam: Right, exactly. I think there is something key in that statement, and that is that it’s not offensive but it can be very, should I say abrasive, if it needs to be. Because I had a conversation with this accountability partner of mine last week, and it was after we had set up a time to meet. We have a weekly standing call that we usually check in for 20 or 30 minutes, and we go through the regular, “This is what you said you’re going to do last week, did you do it? Why didn’t you do it?” and then we begin to notice patterns in each other. I would say he is very good about noticing patterns in me and calling me out on them. Last week we had a moment like that. I had to cancel at the last minute, and I said something’s come up, I would like to have this call. I’ll call you tomorrow. Well, I didn’t call him the next day. And he sent me an e-mail, and it was a very long, very heartfelt e-mail but it was very to the point about the fact that I had said I was going to call him, I didn’t do it. How many times am I doing that in my life and what is the impact that it’s having?

So then he challenged me to look at how many e-mails am I responding to at the very first attempt that have nothing to do with my business but there are people who want my time or want my attention but they don’t help me build what I’m trying to build? And his point was in a very friendly but assertive way saying, “You need to look at your priorities and decide what are the most important conversations to have and which ones you need to abandon or push off for a while.”

Drew: Yeah, that had to sting a little bit.

Adam: It did. It sat with me for about three days in all honesty, Drew. And I wondered why it hurt so bad. It wasn’t a hurt, physical pain or anything, it was more like mentally, emotionally. It hurts that he had to say that, but I also know that that hurt means that it impacted me. If it didn’t hurt, I just didn’t believe it, but I believed it was probably true so it’s definitely been something I’ve been working on.

Drew: Yeah. I think for a lot of the listeners, I think this is really about odds are they’ve built a great agency and things are going pretty well. Yeah, there are the ebbs and flows and the bang your head against an employee issue or get fired by a client, but for the most part things are going pretty well. I think sometimes the most dangerous thing for a business owner is to be fat and happy. You stop putting the pedal to the metal because you are feeling like things are better.

I think a lot of agencies came out of the recession and things are better today than they were a few years ago, but the reality is every agency owner is feeling this nagging thing in the back of their head that they aren’t getting as much done and they certainly are not spending time on the things that are important but not urgent, which is one of the things that we often talk about in our mastermind group, is really the bigger picture. “What do I have to get done this quarter to hit my goals?” and all that sort of stuff. That’s why I think this topic is so critical for them, because everybody has to find a group of people or another person that allows them to be their best self. When I look at our mastermind group, I think that’s what it does for me, is it forces me and gives me the opportunity to be my best self by holding me accountable.

Adam: Absolutely. Well, that notion of being fat and happy, I hear complacency a lot. People will say, “Well, I lost my drive. It’s comfortable.” I had this conversation with a gentleman yesterday who I think was actually looking for accountability, Drew, in all honesty. He said for the last three to five years I’ve had a really good job. I could come home at 5:00 or 5:30 and open a bottle of wine and sit and hang out with my kids. I didn’t really have the drive. I think part of that is an accountability partner too will say, “Do you want more. And if you want more, what is it, and why aren’t you going after it? What’s in your way or what’s keeping you back?”

For me it’s been both you guys, Dave, I have one other accountability partner I talk to on a regular basis. It’s them reminding me what I’m capable of, like you said, and then pushing me to that level as much as possible. I think there is something to that. Having someone that reminds you how good you are or how good you can be, and you’re not quite living up to that at this point. It’s nice to have that mirror to be held up to every now and again.

Drew: Yeah. Well, I think too, I think the other thing that a lot of agency owners struggle with is sometimes they’re just wiped out.  They’ve lost their mojo. I think having somebody hold you accountable is the gentle kick in the rear sometimes. You know what, you do still have gas in the tank, and you have things to accomplish this month, this quarter, this year, so let’s go do them.

So, to your point, it is about holding up the mirror and saying, “You got this, and I have your back. Not only do I have your back but my hand is on your back and I’m pushing you along a little bit when you need the nudge.”

Adam: Absolutely, absolutely. So a question for you, Drew, when it comes to the agency owners. We’re nearing the end of the year, or if there is an end of the quarter period, or mid-year point, do agency owners begin to let off on the gas a little bit towards let’s say at the end of the year?

Drew: Yeah, I think like a lot of business owners, unless you’re in a retail kind of environment, I think everybody looks at around December 10th, December 15th as okay, that’s when things slow down. So for a lot of agency owners, AMI put together several years ago, we have a one-page business plan worksheet, and that’s the time of year that I’m encouraging them to really invest the time thinking about what are the big things they want to get done in some key areas like finance, a new business, and the staff. What’s the one big thing that’s in the way of you having a stellar year and how do you get that out of the way early on in the year?

So it’s a great time to do some planning, but for many agencies, yeah, things do slow down at the tail end of the year.

Adam: I think one of the things that I’ve been doing with my accountability partner which may be helpful to some of your agency owners is chunking down the last six weeks or four weeks or two weeks and saying, “Okay, here’s the things that I think I can do to add value.” Maybe they are calls, maybe it’s 10 calls you haven’t made. Maybe it’s check ins with some of your biggest clients that you lost two years ago. But something you can do in the last two or three weeks of the year or six weeks of the year that would allow you to offer some tremendous value to people that set you up for success at the beginning of the first of the year.

I’m very similar. My business tends to taper off towards the end of the year. A lot of my revenue comes from speaking engagements, and most of that was put on hold after about December 5th to the 10th. And yet those last few weeks of the year I generally will be creating a ton of value for the first quarter. I’ll be doing a lot of outreach. I’ll offer even 30 minute consultations with certain people that I’ve worked with in the past.

My accountability partner had said, “What can you do during that period so it’s not wasted time?” because it would be like me to catch up on all the shows that I’ve been wanting to watch on Netflix, and yet I know that there is a tremendous amount of productivity yet in me. It’s like getting the last of the toothpaste out of the tube.

Drew: Right.

Adam: My wife is a master at getting every last ounce of toothpaste out of that tube. I feel like years have passed, and in years past where there was still toothpaste left and I threw it away at the end of the year when I should have been squeezing all that I had out.

Drew: Yeah, that’s a great analogy. I think a lot of times people go, “Oh, you know what, this is my time. This is family time. It’s the holidays,” and all of that. That reminds me to make the point that the whole reason you want to be more accountable is so that you are more successful, however you define that, whatever that means for you.  So you do have more time to do the things that you love to do, whether that’s hang with friends or family or whatever it is. It’s not about being busy all the time. It’s not about putting more things on your to-do list. It’s about actually carving things out of your to-do list, and as you said earlier, laser focusing in.

What you’re talking about is, we’re not suggesting don’t hang out with your family over the holidays. That’s not what we’re saying, but what we’re saying is when it’s a quiet time work wise and you’re going to be at work, how do you amplify what you do to make 2016 or 2017, any calendar year, more productive right out of the chute?

Adam: Exactly.

Drew: One of the things that I know about you is that your family is incredibly important to you and you’re very a devoted father and husband. So talk a little bit about how all this effective accountability allows you to do more of that and maybe the lines that accountability crosses between both our personal and our professional lives.

Adam: Well, it’s a great question, Drew. You are right, my family I would hold at the highest level of importance in my life. I think if I’m not being an effective father or husband I’m failing at my main job. Part of that, and this is the challenge I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, is we see ourselves as the breadwinner, as the person that’s going to go out and slay dragons all day, and yet we also need to make sure we have time for our family.

I had some big goals this last year. I wanted to speak internationally. I wanted to finish this documentary project I’d been working on. I had a number of these goals that had been listed out. And I got called to the carpet by one of my accountability partners, and he said, “Based on all of this, where do you plug in time for your family, and how do you make that a priority?” One of the things that he challenged me on was I had international travel on my list, and he said, “So you want to spend more time with your family and yet you want to do international travel, which will take you away from your family. So how do you put the two of those together, or how do you reconcile that you want one thing but it’s mutually exclusive of the other?”

I think there is value in that. There is value in having someone question, based on what you say you want, are you doing that or are you living up to those principles? So for me, it has been a matter of making sure that my family rank in high priority, that I measure and manage the amount of time that I’m spending with them, and at the same time figuring out when I can be most productive.

To your point, I don’t generally have a lot of days where I sit and twiddle my thumbs or answer emails or mindlessly surf the web. My very first thing that I do every day, Drew, is I create my power priority list. My power priority list is all of the things that I have to do that day. I then take about 10 minutes and I list them all in a, b, or c priority and then I list them a.1.), a.2.), a.3.), b.1.), b.2.,) b.3.). And then before I even start on the project, I’m listing how much time that I think I will spend on each of those and then when I begin that project I’ll race the clock. So if I say I’m going to record a solo cast and I think it’s going to take me 30 minutes to write it and 15 minutes to record it, then I set a timer and I’m racing that timer to make sure that it’s done.

Similarly, one of my high priorities is, my kids get home about 3:30 or 4:00 o’clock every day. I’d like to be done at about 4:30 so that I can go shoot hoops with my boys or download about my daughter’s day before she digs into a book or her iPod or whatever she ends up doing.

Drew: Right.

Adam: Carving out that time, for me, there’s this period between 4:30 and 7:30 that should be dedicated family time. The weeks where I have more days that that doesn’t happen, I know that I feel out of sync, and that’s usually when I’m talking to you or Mitch, my accountability partner, saying, “Okay, here is what’s happening. Here is what I did,” and they’re saying, “Well, what can you do to change it? Do you need to get up earlier? Do you need to do work at night? How can you make that a priority given that you’re saying it’s a priority?” But for me, I feel like the wheel of life is lopsided if my family isn’t getting adequate time.

Drew: Well, and at the end of the day, that’s why we need to be held accountable. It’s not about making our businesses bigger, better, stronger, although that obviously is part of it. But at the end of the day, I don’t know an agency owner or a business owner that doesn’t have someone in their life, whether they have a family or they have close friends or whatever it is, that they want to spend more time with. There are things that are important to all of us personally that when we’re distracted all the time, or I have a lot of agency owners talk about how their kids feel about their cell phone and that it’s always ringing and they can never get away. That’s really a result of not having your priorities in order and not being able to marshal up all that you have to go as fast and far as you can so that you can carve out the time.

I think that’s the message of why this matters, is because we work so that we can have a life, work shouldn’t be our life. And by having an accountability partner, or partners in a mastermind group, you have a better chance of actually getting to your true priorities.

Adam: Agreed, agreed. I think there is an assumption, based on what you just said, Drew, there is an assumption that when the phone rings we need to be available for it. I actually think that, and I think this was a “4-Hour Workweek” tidbit that Tim Ferriss wrote about. But if you have a very purposeful voicemail message, and the voicemail message were to suggest something like, “I apologize if you’re getting this voicemail if it’s before 5:00 o’clock, but I make it a point to cut out of work at 4:30,” or, “at 5:30,” or whatever time you feel comfortable. “I make it a point to cut out of work at 5 o’clock and that time is family time. If this is an emergency, text me and I’ll respond within an hour.”

But I think offering up something like that, I’ve done it in the past and I’ve gotten nothing but positive remarks from people who have called and left a message.

Drew: Great.

Adam: I had an auto-responder at one point that said, “This week is family week. I’m taking some much needed time to invest in my family much like I invest in business most of the time.” Everything that I got that week, people were responding saying, “This is so cool. I need to do this. I love this concept.” Again, very honestly, that came out of a really effective accountability talk that I had with someone.

Drew: Okay, so hopefully we have whetted the listener’s appetite and they’re ready to be held accountable. So let’s talk a little bit about how one does that. You’ve obviously surrounded yourself with a plethora of accountability partners. You have your mastermind group, and then it sounds like you have some individual accountability partners too. How do you know who is going to be good at holding you accountable? What do you look for?

Adam: Well, I look for someone that is willing to be very honest. I had a discussion with a friend of mine who was hurt by something that someone said, and he was hurt to the extent that he said, “I’m just afraid our friendship is at jeopardy about this because it just hurt me so bad.” When we dug into what it was, this friend of his had given him some very candid, honest feedback about a blind spot that this gentleman had. I said, “You wouldn’t be hurt if there weren’t some fear that it was true.”

So this is the issue, I think you’ve got to find an accountability partner that’s willing to give you real honest, candid feedback about what you’re doing and why they see it holding you back, and to have you not be offended by it to the extent that it would affect the relationship. So I look for people who have candor. I look for folks who are not going to hold back on me. I look for people who are not going to hold a grudge if I’m doing the same for them. Drew, part of this agreement that I have with my accountability partners is we are given the green light to be very honest about what we see in terms of habits or traits or patterns that we’re seeing on a regular basis. When those patterns are negative — my accountability partner, who is a great guy, he is a spender. He spends money like crazy, and because of that he has financial issues. So I would like to think I’m a pretty good accountability partner for him.

Drew: I would think so, yeah.

Adam: That’s my bailiwick. I will say, “I don’t understand why you’re buying these things. What are you getting out of buying these when you know that what you should be doing instead of spending money is building your business, writing books, doing whatever?” So for me, candor, it’s honesty, it’s the ability for someone to give very candid feedback, have tough skin about it, and know that feelings might be hurt, but we can say, “I really appreciate you giving me that. It pissed me off when you said it, but I know it pissed me off because there is some nugget of truth in it.”

Drew: Yeah.

Adam: So I’m looking for those people. I will tell you who is not a great accountability partner, Drew. Those are generally folks that are yes people. They are folks who want to preserve your feeling, so they don’t tell you certain things. Jack Canfield, I went through his training last year, and he said, “If someone tells you, you look like a horse, you can laugh it off. But if 10 people tell you you look like a horse, you may want to buy a saddle.”

Drew: Great.

Adam: So I’m looking for the people who are telling me, “You look like a horse,” as much as possible. Not those that are like, “Oh, I really like your mane and your big teeth.”

Drew: Right.

Adam: So I want someone who is telling me, “You look tired. You’re not sleeping enough. What’s the deal? Are you burning the midnight oil?” That candor is really valuable to me.

Drew: One of the things that was important for us as we were putting together our mastermind group many eons ago was we wanted everyone to own their own business. So how important do you think it is that you’re on a level playing field in terms of — and by the way, just for the listeners, none of us are in the same business. We all own a business but none of us do the same thing, so we’re not competitors in any way. But for us, it was important that everybody be on the same path in terms of being an owner.

Adam: I think there is tremendous value in partnering someone that understands the mentality of taking risk. It’s hard to find that in an entrepreneur. You might be able to find it in a CEO, CFO, CTO kind of role. So if you’re working with C suite folks, I think they get it. They’re there. They understand the management of people and those kinds of things.

But I think if you are a business owner yourself, it’s good to have an accountability partner that’s also a business owner. I think, this is my own, maybe twisted view of it but I think it’s nice to have someone in a business that’s somewhat unrelated to yours. So I’m working with a gentleman right now who owns an IT recruiting company. This guy just has a very interesting way of looking at issues. He is very tactical. He’s very pragmatic, and for me, because I’m more of a strategic thinker, it’s nice to have someone that gives me that kind of angle on the challenges that I’m facing.

So I think if you can find someone that maybe isn’t a same-same as you but is a little same-different as you, that’s also beneficial because you’re getting the benefit of their different perspective.

Drew: Yeah, I think they need to understand the world that you live in. But it’s nice to have them come from a different world so that there is that mental shift in perspective because sometimes the way they do it in their world, it may not be how you would do it in yours or I would do it in mine but it makes you think differently. And that’s, I think part of the accountability partner too. It’s not just about making sure you get your stuff done or you get your priorities done or you have an annual goal or all of that. But it’s also, for me anyway, you guys have always been my thinking partners. It’s like, I need to think this through, and I want different perspectives and input so that I’m not in my own tunnel vision looking at this only in one way.

Adam: Absolutely, absolutely Drew. And I think that notion, not to completely change gears, but on the notion of the mastermind group, this is a 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 11,  it doesn’t equal 3.

Drew: Right.

Adam: The ability to find those people that you mesh with, that you trust, and that have your back no matter what, I think that’s critical. To your point about brainstorming and coming up with new ideas, I will share with your listeners, when I did my TED Talks, you two were the first two people I wanted to share it with because I know the ideas that come from you guys are completely valuable. Your feedback is going to be honest. And, you know this, I made numerous tweaks just based on your guys’ input on my talk.

So likewise, I use mastermind groups for effective accountability, for brainstorming for ideas, for guidance, and I’m using the accountability partners for productivity and holding me accountable and challenging me in my patterns. But both are exceptionally valuable to your business.

Drew: Well, actually that leads me right into the question I was going to ask, is for you who have both a mastermind group and individual accountability partners, how do you use them differently? And if somebody is listening saying, “Yeah, I want to be accountable but I don’t think I want both,” how do they figure out which would be better for them, from your perspective?

Adam: This is going to be a roundabout answer to your question, Drew, but I think many business owners feel like they’re in a bit of a silo. They’re out on their own. The buck stops with them. They’re the ones signing paychecks. So how do you really have a nice partnership with people in your company? Some people do have that. But I think if you’re wondering do I go mastermind or do I go accountability partner, I think where I would start if you’re feeling siloed at all is begin a mastermind group. A local mastermind group that can meet on a fairly regular basis is really important. When we started a decade ago, we met pretty regularly.

Drew: Every other week, remember?

Adam: Yeah, every other week for three hours at a time, and that was a big time commitment. But I also point to that period of time in our lives where some of the biggest growth occurred in our businesses. At the very least, the most foundation was laid about who we were going to be and what we were going to do.

I think over time as — and this is what will normally happen in every mastermind group — as the group gets more and more successful individually, it becomes more and more challenging to meet as a group because your schedules will get a little more full. At that point, then I think it becomes even more important to bring in that accountability partner because that person may not be at a three-hour every two-week meeting. It might be a 30-minute check in on Monday morning, or it might be a 15-minute, “what are you doing this week”, “what’s going to get in your way”, “how can I help keep it out of your way”, kind of conversation. Almost like an agile, scrum in the morning.

Drew: Right, right, right.

Adam: I think having that for an agency owner is really important because we go in, and you know this, what takes up your day are things like phone calls, emails, client meetings, research, meeting with your team, doing brainstorming sessions.

Drew: People in the doorway, right? Fires.

Adam: Exactly. And at some point to have someone say, “Well, why didn’t you get that done yesterday?” “Well, I had two fires to put out, two impromptu meetings.” And they would say, “What were the impromptu meetings about?” And you begin to like dissect what was it actually that kept me from getting done what I told you I would get done?

Drew: Right.

Adam: And in the end, inevitably you’ll find things that were high priority, low importance.

Drew: Yeah, yeah. They were they were on fire in front of you so you took the time to put it out but they weren’t really where you should have spent your time.

Adam: Exactly.

Drew: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so you and I could obviously talk about this forever, but I want to give our listeners some really tangible things. The way the mastermind group came to be, just FYI listeners, is that I was having coffee with actually a guy who was our fourth member for a period of time when he was self-employed. We talked about that we wanted to have a mastermind group and that we would want to do it together. We started talking about the qualities of the people that we wanted to be with and what was important for us.

I will also tell you that this isn’t just about business. You end up getting in each other’s life and business, and so this has to be somebody that you’re willing to share everything with. We end up talking about family as much as we talk about work because it all meshes together. Ironically, both of us said the same two names, which happened to be, Adam was one of them, and a guy named Mitch Matthews was another.

But I think it’s critical to know who you want to make this long term commitment because I think that’s the key to mastermind success, is this is not a six-month gig or a year gig. I mean, we’ve been doing it more than a decade, and I anticipate we’ll be doing it for another decade. So when you look for effective accountability partners, how do you broach that conversation? If you want someone to either be in a mastermind group with you, or you want to start a mastermind group, or you want someone to be your accountability partner, what does that look like?

Adam: Well, I think you may have said the word that would come to mind first for me, and that’s commitment. In my mind, this is a commitment that you make to a group of guys or women, or both for that matter, that we are committing to this amount of time invested in each other.

Patrick Lencioni has, in his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” he has the whole idea of team one. Team one is the level of directors. It’s the C-suite, it’s the top level folks. All of those people have the back, have each other’s back before they have their team’s back. So if you have a director of sales and a director of ops and a director of finance, those three directors have each other’s back before the sales director has the sales team’s back.

I think what I’m asking for with mastermind partners is that you have my back. That this is a commitment you’re making. We found this, and I think our fourth member who is no longer part of the group would agree with this. When the mastermind group became less of a priority and therefore less of a commitment, that’s where it was obvious that he was not a part of the mastermind group any longer.

Drew: Right.

Adam: And I think if you’re looking for someone to partner with that you need to have that conversation upfront, and that is, are you willing to commit and can we make a six-month commitment that we are team one? That this has the highest priority over everything else. So that when these two hours or three hours a week are blocked off on your schedule, or a month, that nothing else takes priority over that. That’s the highest priority thing on your calendar.

Drew: Yeah, it’s sacred.

Adam: It’s sacred time, exactly. Here’s the challenge with that, Drew. I think that for business owners, strategy time is not sacred time.

Drew: So true.

Adam: We make tactical time sacred time, but we very rarely make strategic time sacred time. In my work that I did years ago with Michael Gerber, who was the author of “The E-Myth Revisited,” he told me, “Adam, when everything’s important nothing’s important.”

Drew: Yeah.

Adam: He also said when you do the highest level work, that’s 10,000-foot view work, that should be the most important work you do for your company. It’s about working on your business, not in your business. I think having that mastermind group is the accountability that people need to work on their business three hours every two weeks or whatever time you set up.

Drew: Yeah, you’re right. It is a sacred commitment. As silly as that sounds, it really is. It has to be very personal. Otherwise it doesn’t work. Yeah, yeah. So for those of you that are thinking you want to start a mastermind group, in the show notes I will put a link. Our other mastermind partner, Mitch Matthews, does a killer podcast called Dream. Think. Do. He did a solo cast, it was probably about 45 minutes long, talking specifically about how you set up a mastermind group and how it functions. I will put a link to that in the show notes because it’s a great tutorial if this is something that you think you want to do. Don’t feel like you’re out there on an island. We’ll give you some instructions on how to do that.

So Adam, if folks are listening and they’re fired up and they want to do this and they really want to, as your podcast encourages them to do, build a bigger life and they know that part of that for them is holding themselves accountable, what are some things that they can take away from our conversation or they can do today or this week, right now, to get the ball rolling on not letting this idea slide in the sea of fires and tactical stuff that’s going to consume their day as soon as they stop listening to this podcast?

Adam: Well, given the maybe hectic and frenetic nature of schedules today, I think giving someone a big long to-do list probably isn’t effective. So I’m going to suggest a five-minute exercise. For five minutes, and I’d recommend doing this once you’re done listening to this episode of the podcast. Make a list on a blank sheet of paper. There’ll be four columns. And in the four columns, at the very top of the columns you’re going to have a plus sign, a minus sign, a multiplication sign, and a division sign. This all came from the work that a woman named Dr. Verna Price did. She’s at the University of Minnesota. But she maintains that in everyone’s life there are adders, there are subtractors, there are multipliers, and there are dividers. So the folks that should go on your mastermind list at the very least should be adders, and ideally should be multipliers. You do not want subtractors and you do not want dividers. You know who those folks are. The subtractors and dividers are people who maybe don’t have a positive outlook on life. They are chronic complainers. They’re part of the ‘ain’t it awful’ club and they’re trying to recruit new members all the time. We have dividers that are folks who want to talk about people versus ideas. In a mastermind group I think what you must discuss are ideas and tangible processes and ways of getting better. So when you make that list of the four columns, you’re going to make a list of all the people that are in your life that you encounter on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Focus on the adder and the multiplier columns. That is where you will decide who is going to be on your mastermind group.

If you’re finding that those lists are coming up a little short, one of the things I recommend doing is taking a long weekend or a week and going to a maybe a self-development event, like a Jack Canfield event or a Tony Robbins event, and get to know a handful of people. The ones that really resonate with you, the ones you’re drawn to, those are probably very natural accountability partners. In all honesty, two of my current accountability partners came from a training that I went to last year. Meeting these guys, hanging out with them, some of the conversations we had, it was just very apparent that they possessed all of the qualities that I wanted in someone that could hold me accountable.

So if you don’t have that exhaustive list, go find it. Go find those people. But know that they’re going to come from that adder and that multiplier list.

Drew: And recognize that for you to be a good and effective accountability partner or a mastermind group mentor, you too have to be an adder or multiplier. So if you would put yourself in the subtractor or divider category sometimes, it’s probably a good smack on the cheek that you need to readjust how you’re coming at life.

Adam: Absolutely, absolutely.

Drew: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great exercise. Great exercise.

Adam: I’ll add one more resource, and you might add this on the notes for the show, but “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.

Drew: Great book.

Adam: He talked about the mastermind alliance, and the alliance were people like Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone. I’m trying to think. Thomas Edison was part of that group. So they had this amazing mastermind partnership. I think President Harding was a part of their mastermind group. So he in his book lists how the mastermind alliance comes to be. And on the Napoleon Hill foundation’s website, he’s got a checklist of how to build an ideal mastermind alliance. I think it even has some version of a contract that’s signed among the mastermind partners. I think that’s very helpful if someone is looking at implementing this idea.

Drew: Yeah, no, that’s a great resource, thank you very much. Okay guys, I knew that this would be chock-full of good information, and as always, Adam overdelivers. But I need to let him go. I have to tell you, close your eyes for a minute and picture a guy sitting in his car in a parking lot with a laptop on his lap and the headphones on and a microphone, and that is Adam Carroll today. He has a very busy day, and didn’t want to let me and you down by not being available, and so he is in a little mobile recording studio today. So Adam, I’m very grateful for the fact that you went to those extreme lengths to be with us today. Thank you.

Adam: I would go to those lengths and more for you, Drew. Hopefully the acoustics were okay in my mobile recording studio here. There were some sirens earlier but I tried to mute my microphone.

Drew: Yeah, no, I think we’re good. I can’t thank you enough. As you know, I personally am so grateful that we came into each other’s world and that you hold my feet to the fire on a regular basis. I have no doubt that I am where I’m at with my businesses today, it’s a direct result, I can tie it back to our mastermind group. I’m so grateful for you in general, but I am so grateful that you took the time today to share some of the things that you know and some of your best practices with the listeners, so thank you very much.

Adam: It’s my sincere pleasure, Drew. You are an inspiration to many. I admire you and your ability to just crank out content galore and provide tremendous value to your listeners. So, I know without question they’re getting that from your podcast, from you in person, and from all the other amazing projects you’re a part of.

Drew: Thank you my friend. So if folks want to track you down, if they want to find the podcast, if they want to learn more about the documentary, what’s the best way for them to do that, to reach out to you?

Adam: I will give you two websites here, the Build a Bigger Life podcast can be downloaded wherever you get your podcasts. My preferred method is iTunes, but however you get yours, it’s out there. I think we’re up to episode 65 or 70 at this point, so we got some…

Drew: Awesome.

Adam: Just some amazing guests. The film is coming out around the first of the year nationally. We’ll do a big national push. But you can download it now. You can go see it if you like at brokebusteddisgusted.com. If you’d like some of my musings, there is blog posts and podcasts available on my site, and that is adamspeaks.com. So feel free to visit either one of those, adamspeaks.com, buildabiggerlife.com, or brokebusteddisgusted.com.

Drew: Awesome. Again, thank you very much. Listeners, of all the podcasts that we have done so far, this is one of the ones where I really, really hope you didn’t just listen passively but that you really do put this into play, because I can tell you from personal experience that as much as accountability sometimes pinches and sometimes really ticks you off, the trajectory it will put you on both personally and professionally is something that you just cannot achieve on your own. So I strongly encourage you to do this.

And for those of you that are part of AMI networks, this is part of why those networks exist. Certainly seeing each other every six months isn’t enough, but it is a small dose of effective accountability. I’d love for you to get more of that by following some of the advice that Adam had.

Thanks as always for listening, for giving up some of your time and sharing it with me. I’m so grateful that you do that. If this is something that you are enjoying, please make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode. And if this is working for you, if this is rocking your world, I would love to hear about it in email or certainly on your podcast of preference website. A thumbs up, a rating, a review allows us to get in front of more folks and get the word out and help other people also build bigger, better, stronger agencies, which is what we’re all about.

So thanks again for your time, and I will catch you next week.

That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book, and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients, and doesn’t consume your life is possible, here on Build a Better Agency.

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