Lessons From 7 months of Running an Accountability Group

I ran an accountability group with two other tutors for close to 7 months, to hold one another accountable how to make everyday count.

We called ourselves Spartans, and it was apt. What we did for 7 months was not anything trivial.

Everyday, each of us would send a WhatsApp message to a chat group using a template. This should be done by 2359 of the day. The messages reported on what we had done for the day, what we could have done better, and what we plan for the next day. See the attached screenshot for a better idea.

How a typical daily report looks like

Later on, we improved upon this template to further refined what we should work on. So in the end, we had a Self-Care segment, a Family & Friends segment, and an Asset Building segment, to report on everyday. It took Spartan discipline and willpower.

After 7 months of doing the accountability reporting, we decided to stop. This is what I learnt.

1) Frequency of reporting

Frequency should be reduced. Once a week, or maybe once a fortnight. Most people cannot cope with daily accountability. Too many distractions and ups-and-downs everyday to be meaningfully reported.

2) End date

Must have an end date. Something like 1 month or 3 months. No longer than that. It is because people will get tired and bored. Many things change after some time. The purpose of accountability reporting might not be there anymore.

There can be another season/the next run if anyone still wants to continue the accountability group.

It is unwise not to set an end date, just like in business.

3) Enforcing rules and conditions

Must have strict rules and conditions, something like “if failed to report in the accountability group for 3 times in a row, will be automatically retired from the group. The retired member may apply to join the next round of accountability group”.

These rules and conditions must be explained and emphasized in the beginning, and everyone must agree that it should be executed without hard feelings.

The rationale is to be fair to others who make the effort to follow the rules and regulations. The whole structure WILL fall apart if not everyone is equally yoked.

4) Moderator

There must be an appointed moderator, and the moderator must be active. Retiring inactive members is the responsibility of the moderator. Even for the most active and on-the-ball group, not having a moderator is a time-bomb.

Since the moderator has heavy responsibility on his shoulder, it is all the more important to have an end date for each accountability group, otherwise it is very hard to get anyone to take on the role of moderator.

5) Culture of coaching

Must have a culture of coaching. The accountability group is not a checklist or a judgement place. The objective should be that everyone feel cared for, feel a sense of belonging, feel understood, feel a sense of “we’re in this together”.

When lapses happen, the first response is not to judge or to point fingers, but to privately ask what is happening and how can others help.

Everyone goes through different seasons, there is no judgement when one is unable to follow the commitment. If one feels that he is unable to commit, or sees no meaning in continuing the accountability, the best approach is to graciously opt out.

6) Goal setting

There must be some end goals which make sense to each group member. For each season, it is suggested to have one goal for self-care, one goal for family/friends, one goal for work/career. No more than that. 

These goals should be challenging, not trivial, yet not overambitious. The idea is not to set improbable goals that are doomed to fail in the end, because it will just cause demoralization and a false conclusion that accountability doesn’t work. 

A guideline in goal setting is that one should able to list (a) 3 reasons why he must achieve these goals (b) 3 reasons why these goals had not been achieved in the past (c) 3 strengths he has that will enable him to achieve these goals.

I’ll also consider having a time at the beginning of each accountability session to let each member talk about why his goals are important to him.

7) Comparison

Comparison is toxic. The moderator MUST emphasize this. There should be some minimum standard in reporting, but anyone who wants to go above and beyond, it is up to the individual. It should not become a burden to the rest to have to keep up.

8) Open door policy

End of the day, people in the accountability group must see growth in themselves and must believe in the benefits of accountability.

There should be an open door policy agreed upon right from the start, that anyone is free to exit at any time without feeling guilt or shame, that leaving when one cannot keep up is an act of kindness and consideration for the whole group’s benefit.

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