Peer Group Accountability: Who’s Responsible?

In workshops I’ve been conducting with CEO and executive peer groups across the country recently, group members are challenged to assess their overall performance (and develop an action plan for improvement) using the five factors common to high performing peer groups as described in The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success.  The five factors are 1) having the right people in the room, 2) promoting a safe and confidential environment, 3) fostering valuable interaction, 4) practicing group accountability, and 5) having excellent servant leadership.  You’ll find brief descriptions of each of the five factors here.

The richest conversations in these workshops tend to focus on how to create and sustain a disciplined culture of group accountability – what many group leaders regard to be among the most important, if not THE most important, of the five factors.  This essentially means that group members hold one another accountable for doing what they say they will do (DWTSTWD) to achieve their goals.  It’s not about accountability to the leader, it’s about accountability to one another.

Yet, to address weaknesses in this area, which are quite common, the tendency of some members is to offer recommendations and action items for the leader.  Of course, this is antithetical to what group accountability really means, right?.   While the leader can set the tone and serve as a backstop when necessary, the leader should not play the role of implementer and enforcer.  If the group wants to practice what it preaches, it can’t cede its responsibility to the leader.  It’s up to the individual members and the group as a whole.  Unless they take the lead, it will never take hold, nor be very effective.

Let me illustrate the point.  If I, as an individual member, bring up an issue or opportunity for discussion with my group and take 45-minutes of their time, benefiting from their experiences and guidance, and declare the action(s) I’m prepared to take based on the conversation, isn’t it my responsibility to offer a status update at the next meeting?   Shouldn’t I be the accountability driver?  Isn’t that the least I can do for the gift I received from my fellow members?  Group accountability has to start with me.

Now, let’s say the next meeting comes along, and I don’t volunteer a status update.  It could be because I didn’t do what I said I would do at the last meeting and maybe I’m a bit embarrassed by that.  I might not say anything in the hope I can slide and no one will notice.  Not a good strategy because it only negatively impacts me and, worse yet, eats away at the culture of the group.  The right thing to do is for me to own up to it and say I’ll do better next month.  (It’s not the end of the world and at least I’m being honest with my group).   Or, it simply slips my mind to report on my action items from the last meeting.  In that instance, the next line of defense rests with the group.  After all, the other members, all of whom are committed to group accountability, should be interested enough in my progress, given the valuable time they spent helping me at the last meeting, to say, “Hey, Leo.  Tell us how your new initiative is coming along?”

If neither I, nor the group, offer an update or fail to ask about it, it would then be up to the leader to ask me why I didn’t initiate the conversation and then to challenge the group by asking, “How is it that not one of you thought to ask?  You can’t have a culture of group accountability unless everyone in the group is committed to it.”  This is what I mean by the leader serving as the backstop.

For group accountability to become ingrained in the group culture, the individual members and the group as a whole have to accept it as their responsibility.   If this is not the dynamic in your peer group today, give it a try and, over time, watch peer group accountability improve and see how everyone starts to achieve even better results.

Are You Living By High Standards or Lofty Expectations?

I got a jump-start on the Year of the Peer today (the day after Christmas), as I participated in my CEO World online group meeting, where we reflected on 2016 and talked about our goals for 2017.  Sharing my goals out loud with a group of my peers helps me hold myself accountable to what I want to achieve in life.  Rather than make a New Year’s resolution I’m likely to break, I make a promise to myself that I’m far more inclined to keep, not only because I expressed it to my peers, but also because these are the people who will be there for me next year and who will help me do what I said I want to do.  And I’ll be there for them as well.

During our group meeting, I was asked, “What did you learn last year?”  I immediately thought about what Rahfeal Gordon said to me when we recorded his podcast last week (which will post February 23rd).  Rahfeal said that he lives his life by living up to high standards as opposed measuring success or failure against his or others’ lofty expectations.   I feel as if I’ve approached my work on peer advantage and the Year of the Peer with that in mind – in part because I’m not sure what to expect! 😉   Yet, I couldn’t help appreciate the manner in which Rahfeal articulated it for me in such a powerful and simple way.  He taught me how to express this idea more clearly to others.

If there’s anything the audiences at events, readers of this blog, or listeners to my podcast can do for the cause (and me) next year, other than to spread the word, lend a helping hand to your peers, and contribute your own thoughts and ideas to the dialogue, it’s to hold me to a high standard of delivering peer-to-peer value.  With that, I would appreciate anything you have to share with me on that front, and I promise you that I’ll work to be better each and every day.  (There, I said it out loud!)

With a great deal of help, I hope that, together, we can inspire a new consciousness about what peer advantage can mean for all of us if we just put our minds to it.   If we embrace the concept “who you surround yourself with matters” just a little more tightly, I think we’re in for a prosperous 2017.

Happy New Year everyone!  #yearofthepeer

A Culture of Accountability

I was recently invited to contribute a video for a webinar that was led by Vistage (UK) titled: Accountability – The glue that ties commitment to results.  When it comes to creating a culture of accountability, either for a peer advisory/mastermind group or for a team inside any organization, the five factors outlined in The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success provide a fitting framework.  Here’s the video I submitted, which served as my small contribution to the larger conversation about accountability.  Enjoy and feel free to share your thoughts!!