Accountability groups: a great way to stay on track

Posted by in Productivity

When I left the World Domination Summit, last July, I had a million plus one ideas that I wanted to implement. One of them being: I’m going to write this book. Another one: I’m going to get that side-hustle going and start being rewarded with free trips and other travel-related goodies.

But of course, and I’m sure you can relate to that, all those big plans started fading away as soon as I landed in Philadelphia. Life came back full speed at me and all my hopes and dreams went back by the way side.

Thankfully, I had somewhat planned for that WDS hangover, that I later discovered was a “real thing”. And with my WDS sidekicks had organised the beginning of an accountability group before we parted.

It might have been over Bloody Maries but we each had committed to a few things. Mine were:

  • to have an outline or pitch for my book project
  • to mind-map and find my niche for my hobby-hacking one

And we set a date, a month away, to meet-up on Skype or FaceTime to see where we stood on the commitments we had made.

I left them knowing exactly what was on my to-do list, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the size of the projects and I felt committed since I had declared I would do those tasks. That’s what an accountability group is for.

Accountability groups exists in many shape and form, pick yours

At BoostInLyon, the incubator I give volunteer time to, we have an accountability system that we call the LogBook. Every week, each startup is posting on their season’s Facebook Group and explaining what happened during that week and what’s on the agenda for the week to come. The other members of that season can comment, give feedback, provide tips or simply cheer on.

But, ultimately, our goal is for them to voice their to-do list so that they feel committed to check it. It’s frustrating for the start-upper to put down the same unchecked tasks, week after week, so it encourages them to be focused. And, for the coaching team, seeing the same tasks, week after week, shows that something is not quite right with that project and it’s probably time to raise awareness.

I got a little curious about accountability groups so I did some Google-investigation and found two really good pieces of advice:

The right people for the job

Both Ellen Bard in How to Set Up an Accountability Group and Get Serious Results for PickTheBrain, and Laura Vanderkam in What you Need to Know to Create an Accountability Group That Works for Fast Company stress the importance of finding the right people for the job: not just friends, but people whom will be committed to making all projects move forward.

You might also want to have a leader in your group. Or, at least an upholder that will make sure all expectations are met. We have Kimberlee.

Smart Goals and Smart Consequences

At the beginning it might be tempting to set ambitious goals, because we want to move the projects fast. Or, to set too small of goals because we are afraid of not being able to achieve them. I am probably more in that second category. It takes a little bit of practice to find the right balance, but one thing is sure, your goals must be ACTIONABLE and MEASURABLE.

With something like “to have an outline or pitch for my book project”, there is a formal deliverable that is expected from me on a set date. Either I have it or I don’t. There’s no in-between.

And if I don’t… there will be consequences… My group and I talked about running laps naked around the block in case of missing of a commitment… but I believe there were already many Bloody Maries involved in that idea. Thankfully, it didn’t stick.

Ellen Bard’s rule is pretty strict: “if you don’t post anything for two weeks (unless you’ve told us all you’re away), then you’ll be gently released from the group.” but it’s important to keep each other accountable. That’s why it’s called an accountability group after all!

Timing is the essence

Wether it’s weekly check-ins on a Facebook group or monthly Skype calls across oceans, it’s important to set a time-frame that works for everyone.

I know I wouldn’t be able to do the weekly thing, not even with a simple Facebook post. That would seem like too big of an intrusion on my already well-booked schedule. But once a month, and the pleasure of seeing the friendly faces of my WDS girls is more than enough motivation to get me in front of my laptop.

There are a thousand and one way to make this accountability thing work. The most important part is for you to pick the right setting. With those three elements thought through, you should be in great shape to see you project move from idea to action!

Have you experienced with accountability groups before? Share your stories as well as your favorite tips in the comments below!