When your members say to you, “I want you to hold my feet to the fire,” what are they really asking?
- I want to commit to getting something specific done, and delivering on that commitment in a consistent manner.
- I need help setting goals and making action plans that are truly attainable, and stop over-committing.
- I need some sort of structure in my life so that I can get things done and I want this mastermind group to provide that structure.
Many ex-members of mastermind groups tell me horror stories about their former mastermind groups. Their biggest complaint? No one got results from being in the group because there was no check-in or accountability structure in place (or the group Facilitator didn’t enforce it).
What they’re really asking for is help being responsible for their results.
First Crucial Premise
Before we begin the discussion about holding someone accountable in a mastermind group, let’s face some facts: mastermind groups are not work teams, and you’re not their boss or their leader.
You’re there to facilitate their success, not create it for them.
You don’t have many tools in your tool bag for truly holding members accountable. The worst punishment is that you kick someone out of the mastermind group for not reaching their short-term and long-term goals.
Accountability skills you see in the workplace have very little to do with a mastermind group setting, so forget what you know about employee-employer accountability and let’s focus on how a mastermind group Facilitator holds members accountable.
Let Them Choose Their Own Goals and Timelines
To create success, ask members to come with goals for which they’ll be held accountable.
Caution: do not try to impose suggested tasks and projects on them, or shame them into shooting for higher goals than they feel they can achieve. Yes, there’s a subset of mastermind group members who will set the task/project bar so low that they’re not really making any headway towards their goals. You can encourage them to set higher standards, but you have to do it out of curiosity (“I wonder if that’s a strong enough task for you, Susan, given that you want to achieve your goal in 90 days?”) instead of out of shame (“Susan, it sounds like you’re being lazy.”)
Let them set their own projects and tasks, based on their resources, including available time in their calendar, people to delegate tasks to, the skills/knowledge necessary to get the job done, and the money to do so.
Help them to be crystal clear about what the goal truly is, and the exact tasks that need to be done to reach that goal. Clarity on goals and tasks will help them know the timeline for delivering on those tasks. Ask them to be specific. What exactly will get done, by what date, using which resources? And how will you report it back to the group?
Reporting and Checking In
- Don’t wait until the next meeting to check in with each member. Set up time between meetings to shoot them a quick email, asking them the status of their action plans. This might help them course-correct if they’re already off target.
- During meetings, ask each member to report on what their goal was and if they reached it. It’s important that accountability be public.
- Consider posting, in a public place that all members can access, the list of each member’s goals and whether they achieved them each month.
When to Do Accountability Check-Ins
- During meetings – ask each member for a quick summary of what they promised to complete and the actual results they achieved.
- Between meetings – consider having a message forum where people can report on their progress.
- Accountability days – a full day when members agree to work solely on their project without distractions, with hourly check-ins, either in a live setting or virtually.
Acknowledging member successes at achieving their goals is vital. If you’re going to publically ask them to set goals, then publically applaud them for reaching those goals. Recognizing the attainment of goals reinforces positive behavior.
- Verbally acknowledge that you’re proud of the member.
- Give specific praise for specific actions.
- Consider some small reward for each person who achieves goals: points towards prizes, gift certificates to restaurants, etc.
- Use the leverage of the group dynamics for better peer accountability.
Dealing with Failure to Reach Goals
We often fear the conflict of truly holding someone accountable when they have not met their promises. But a discussion about what they didn’t do isn’t to criticize or reprimand, but rather it’s an exploration into the causes and barriers (so that they can be fixed and perform better next time).
Get the member to take ownership and responsibility for their failure to get the task/project done:
- Give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if this “miss” is a one-time event.
- If you noticed they haven’t reached their promised goal, do a notice-and-explore statement, like, “I notice you didn’t complete the article you promised yourself that you would write. Tell me about it.” (Note that we say “promised yourself” and not “promised me” or “promised the group.” Accountability in a mastermind group starts and ends with the member.)
- Avoid moving into the “parent” or “boss” role. It’s not your place to be disappointed in them (let them be disappointed in themselves) or to rebuke or criticize them. It is your role to ask questions and help turn them around.
- Ask the member what went wrong and listen with an open mind.
- Ask the group to point out inconsistencies and trouble spots that the member might not see.
- Ask them what they will do differently to change the outcome.
Some things not to do:
- Act out on angry or frustrated feelings. Look at your own emotions and motivations before speaking with the member.
- Embarrass, shame or mock them (or allow other members to do this).
- Let it go – don’t ignore a clear situation that’s right in front of you.
- Allow them to repeatedly reset the goal posts – why should they act responsibly when you give consistently give them a “pass” on achieving their goals? Don’t enable the behavior.
Be the Model – Hold Yourself Accountable
Your members will model your behavior, so you need to be in integrity with your own action plans. If you promise to get something to them by a certain date, and fail to do it, what message are you sending them? You have to show ruthless accountability for your own promises and your own success so that your members know they can trust you.
Accountability is Responsibility
Our members are accountable when they achieve goals, and when they take responsibility for not achieving goals.
As Facilitators, our responsibility is to create a consistent structure in which the members can set and achieve goals. Some of your members may be go-getters and not need the accountability, but nearly everyone likes to be acknowledged for having fulfilled their promises.