People are social creatures and we thrive off (healthy, friendly) competition, encouragement, the measurement of our successes, and the acknowledgment of our failures. An accountability group is a small band of people usually within the same industry, who share their goals, support each other and hold each other accountable for meeting them. Sounds like classic office team check-in doesn’t it? That’s because they are similar. Some accountability groups even follow the SMART model for setting goals. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) ‘Write an ebook’ isn’t a SMART goal, ‘draft an outline of my ebook by next week’ is.
How Can an Accountability Group Help Me?
Being part of an accountability group for the past six or seven years has been a real game-changer for my work-from-home life. It’s increased my productivity and my motivation. It has pushed me to focus on the areas of my business I might otherwise have let slide. Too many entrepreneurs and employees flounder alone because they don’t ask for help and don’t seek out the experience of others. The Association for Talent Development found that people have a 65% chance of reaching their goals if they have an accountability partner. Having a sounding board (or many sounding boards) means you can question some of your own preconceived notions, studies have shown that curiosity is associated with higher job performance. As Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent, I’m only passionately curious.”
Interestingly, my weekly accountability meeting is a group of six competitors (I don’t see them as competitors, but that’s what they are in the strictest sense of the word). We meet to discuss five areas of our work life. We do this through a roundtable discussion where we celebrate any successes, raise issues, and offer solutions. The five core areas are pertinent to us all and include production, financial goals, marketing, and other work-from-home KPIs we’ve set. We’re set to present a panel about the Voiceover Powerhouse (that’s what we call our accountability group) and how it’s helped all our careers at the OneVoice conference in Dallas this August.
Apart from our weekly meetings, we stay connected through Messenger throughout the week. Sometimes this provides great water-cooler chats between jobs. Sometimes it serves as verification about how one or the other of us might handle a client issue, a payment problem, or performance advice. Not only does it push the group to achieve more but it also scratches the social itch which is great because working from home can be isolating at times.
I am such a fan of accountability groups that I belong to two. My monthly group is new. I joined because the guestlist intrigued me, and I was (and am) interested in learning from my seven accountability group colleagues. The format in this group is more simplified, we share a win from the past month that we are particularly proud or pleased about. And then we ask, “How can I help you this month?” And by ‘you,’ we mean each other. It’s a poignant question that motivates me to seek advice from my colleagues and dig into what may or may not be working for me so I can offer advice.
Office Employee Accountability Groups
Traditional office-bound employees are often given broader goals and objectives, that they break down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Sometimes project managers or team members will work with employees to come up with those chewable chunks. Weekly (or even daily) meetings are their check-in or accountability meetings.
So should an office employee forgo accountability meetings outside the office? No, they shouldn’t. The goals set by employers and managers are most likely going to be company-focused, they won’t take any personal work goals employees might have into account. Maybe your goal is to be promoted and you need people to help hold you accountable for the steps up the ladder, maybe you just want to get fitter (too vague for the record, ‘start going to the gym three times a week’ is more like it).
The biggest difference might be that the accountability meeting focuses on holding yourself and others accountable, but not in the employer/ employee sense. There is more independence of thought, and more room to maneuver, and discover what works best for you through others rather than being told.
How Can Accountability Meetings Be Used in the Office?
Accountability groups do not only belong in the realm of the small business owner. Pre-pandemic, remote teams with brick-and-mortar-less businesses became more widespread. Through 2020 and beyond, working remotely from home has become the way of life for a major part of the workforce and many are on the hunt for new, more effective methods of keeping productive while working from home. Employees are feeling isolated, and while bosses not looming over their shoulders may be seen as a plus, they often have to hold themselves accountable. Through tech solutions like remote teams, zoom, and other video conferencing tools the importance of team, accountability, and other kinds of touchpoint meetings are highlighted.
Accountability meetings are also a great way to onboard new employees and get them comfortable in their new work setting. Particularly if the boss doesn’t form part of the dynamic. Otherwise the only time a new hire might be able to talk to their co-workers is during the weekly stand up where they might not get much of a chance to speak and bring fresh ideas to the table.
If you decide to start an accountability group with your colleagues then don’t focus on the people you work with directly, branch out, find people from other departments. They might have a way of working that your area has never considered. You’ll also make some great business connections. If you are a small business owner consider joining an accountability meeting and taking what you learn to your employees. Encourage them to form their own group or groups.
Advice for Accountability Groups and Meetings
Having been part of three groups over the past seven years, with varying degrees of success, I have some advice for accountability groups and meetings. Pick like-minded people. They don’t have to be in the same industry but they do need to have the same attitude as you. If there is someone who considers the whole thing a bit of a joke or a chance to unload personal problems, they are likely to impact the group dynamic, suddenly you aren’t measuring goals and achievement but rather having a procrastinator’s chat.
Pick someone to lead, not in a dictatorial sense but someone to hold the group’s goals accountable, the person who will make sure the meetings happen, remind people to check-in, and keep the conversation on track. Time limits are also important. Your accountability meeting should not take too long, 60 to 90 minutes at most, and members should have an approximately equal amount of time to share.
Try to have members have similar experience levels or be at similar points in their careers. If you’re the only one at the height of your career and everyone else is new, your goals and concerns may be too wide. They may not be able to sympathize with your pain points, and you may feel unsupported.
Keep the group smallish, everyone needs to get a chance to speak, so no fewer than four (in case someone drops out) and no more than eight. Unless you decide to go the route of the accountability partner, which would just be two people. Mostly make sure the group works for you, if you aren’t getting anything out of it then don’t be afraid to bail (politely of course) and try to find another group.