Peer Accountability Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

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The problem with the word accountability is it always has a negative connotation.

It’s a trigger word.

You never hear anybody say, “Who’s accountable for this great success?” You never hear, “Who’s accountable for this website getting up on time and on budget? It looks better than we even expected, and isn’t that terrific?”

Instead what we hear is, “Who’s accountable for this unmitigated disaster? Only two people could log on when the Affordable Care Act website went live.”

Accountability is probably the most overused, under-delivered word in the 21st Century business vocabulary.

More Than Pinning Blame

Accountability is more than pinning blame. In a peer advisory group, accountability works as a subtle but powerful motivator. There are no superior-subordinate-relationships. No one is reporting to anyone. No one is hinting you could lose your job if you are held accountable.

Unfortunately, that’s one of the connotations the word.

What really drives accountability in a peer group is that no one wants to admit they did nothing after promising they would do something.

Here’s how it works:

1.    A member of the group will bring in a topic from his or her business life and ask for input. They may ask, “How do I manage my CFO more effectively?” or “What do I need to know about expanding a product?”

2.    The group offers suggestions, some of which the person accepts. He or she then commits to follow a course of action, usually no more than five specific acts.

3.    Accountability shows up the next time the group gets together in the following months. Inevitably somebody will ask, “So how did you do on that?” Nobody wants to come to the meeting and say, “Well I really didn’t do anything about that.”

That’s the notion of accountability. What drives accountability in this setting is peer-to-peer pressure.

No Straw Boss

If you come to a peer advisory group because you expect the facilitator to be a straw boss who will crack the whip because you didn’t do what you said you were going to do, then you’re in the wrong place.  

If you need a babysitter or caretaker, the peer group is not for you.

It’s nobody’s job to scold or punish you. The group is there to remind you about what you said was important and ask: “Is it still important?” Accountability is doing what you say you’ll do when you say will do it.

You’re either accountable or you’re not. 


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