Working with an Accountability Group
Few things in life have as much power to motivate us as the fear of public embarrassment. Working with an accountability group can let you harness that power for your benefit. Commit to taking action in front of a group, and odds are, you’ll follow through.
But the power of peer pressure can drive you in a direction that may not be the best one for you. In this article, we’ll take a look at accountability groups so you can decide if you’re interested in joining one.
What is an accountability group?
Any group where members commit to take action in one meeting and then report on their progress at a later meeting is an accountability group.
Accountability groups offer much more than accountability. They give you a community of people to be with you on your journey, to hold your hand through the rough times and celebrate your triumphs with you. You get the benefit of the experience, resources, and wisdom of others in the group.
But you don’t get to tailor the process to your preferences, like you would with a coach or accountability partner. You have to follow the group’s methods.
Is it an accountability group? You may have to do some digging.
Figuring out if a group is an accountability group may require some detective work.
Sometimes, the accountability aspect is front and center, easy to spot, like diet programs that have weekly weigh-ins to keep members on track.
But accountability sneaks in as a side benefit in many groups. For example, most writing groups focus on critiquing their members’ work. There’s often a requirement — or just a strong social expectation — that members submit new work regularly. These groups are, essentially, writing accountability groups as well as sources of writing critiques.
Consequences of slacking
One important thing for you to consider in choosing an accountability group is how the group deals with slacking and what works for you. Groups vary widely in this respect.
Harsh — the boot
Some groups kick people out if they slack. It’s harsh, but you’re not going to take your commitments lightly if you’re in a group like this.
This policy also keeps the group full of people who are highly committed, which helps everyone stay energetic and enthusiastic about their goals. A woman I know — who’s socially a very nice, very fun person– turns into an accountability maniac when she runs her online weight loss support group. Instead of weigh-ins, she requires members to send in pictures of themselves every few weeks. Miss a picture, and you’re out. No excuses accepted. No mercy.
Other groups have less harsh consequences if you drop the ball. You may lose privileges or be put on probation. Many groups just rely on people’s desire not to be embarrassed in front of the group to keep everyone working hard. Some groups are sweet and non-judgmental about slacking. They’ll try to cheer you up and offer you encouragement if you drop the ball on your commitment.
It’s all about what works for you.
You may think that harsh consequences are the most effective, but I’ve found that many people respond well to a kind, gentle approach that allows them to go at their own pace. It really comes down to your preferences and what’s effective for you.
Some concerns about being in a group
Accountability groups let you harness the power of peer pressure to your advantage, to help you get into action on your personal projects. But the group pressure can also steer you in a direction that’s not right for you.
Pushing you too far
Groups tend to push people farther than they’d go alone. This can be a positive thing, but groups can also push people too far, pressuring them to do way more than they can handle or to work at a pace that’s not sustainable for them.
Staying when it’s time to go
Deep down, you’ll probably know when it’s time to leave your accountability group. But it can be hard to admit that to yourself. Being in a group has a certain momentum. It can be hard to pull away from it. You have to give up a lot of other things when you leave a group — the friends, the community, the feeling of camaraderie. You may be losing a major support structure in your life.
Bottom line: Use the power of accountability groups wisely
Accountability groups can kick you into action and keep you going like almost nothing else can, and the social support they provide gives you lots of powerful benefits in addition to accountability.
But the power of the group can push you in ways that aren’t the best for you.
If you decide to join an accountability group, you may want to do a periodic check-in where you take a step back and look at the effects the group is having on you and think about whether you want to increase, decrease, or maintain your involvement with the group.