ac·count·a·bil·i·ty [uh-koun-tuh-bil-i-tee] 1. responsibility to someone for some activity
An Accountability Group – also called a Mastermind Group – is a collective of like-minded individuals who meet for the purpose of achieving their goals through mentorship, feedback, and shared resources.
This isn’t just a circle of your friends that get together to complain to or entertain each other. These are disciplined, structured sessions designed to be as productive as possible for everyone in attendance.
I owe almost all of my success to the first Black Accountability Group that I belonged to. If you have benefitted from United Black America or the Pan-African Alliance in any way, you can thank that Accountability Group, too.
That’s because the idea for this organization and my first successful businesses all came from a group of my peers who gave me open hearted, honest feedback. We met once a week, challenged each others ideas, held each other accountable for achieving our goals, and shared resources with one another.
To this day, I have not found a better way of staying true to my path to success. As the African Proverb goes, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together!
The Power of an Accountability Group
Some people might criticize the idea of an accountability group as a bunch of people who cant get things done on their own, but it’s just the opposite.
Accountability Groups are for those who want to take their game to the next level, validate their ideas to maximize their success, and multiply their resources with other high vibration achievers.
Here are three ways a Black Accountability Group can help you level up.
An Accountability Group Can Help You Validate Ideas
“I benefited by being in a group of distinguished individuals who have been in business much longer than I. They had so much knowledge and experience to share it was a valuable resource in being able to pick their individual brains, or to be able to call them and run ideas through them. “ – Derrick M. Guest, CEO/Griot’s Roll Film Production & Services Inc.
We all have ideas that we have picked up from a variety of sources. Some of these sources are valid and some are not. How would you know which is which without someone with better information helping you to correct your misconceptions?
Thats where validation comes in.
Validation gives you more certainty your business, physical approach, or spiritual path will get you to where you are trying to go with the least amount of effort. This approach saves you time and energy that would otherwise be wasted by trial and error.
In my past groups, if I have what I think is a great idea I can present it to the group, let them tear it up, and use their constructive criticism to develop the idea further.
An Accountability Group Can Multiply Your Resources
Being a member of an Accountability Group can give you access to investors, licensed professionals, and people who have experience across an array of industries.
Those members also have networks beyond the Accountability Group that you may be able to tap into over time.
Of course, sharing resources has to be reciprocal. Otherwise you will end up with a group of takers that give nothing in return. More on that later.
An Accountability Group Will Raise Your Vibration
“Align yourself with people you can learn from, people who want more out of life, people who are stretching and searching and seeking some higher ground in life.” Les Brown
If there is one thing the universal law of correlation teaches us, its that there is no such thing as neutrality. You are are surrounded and influenced profoundly by the relationships that you are in.That means who you are can be compromised by who you let into your circle.
Likewise, by bringing high energy people into your circle will raise your energy in turn.
5 Values Every Black Accountability Group Must Have
The best Black Accountability Groups don’t happen by accident. Anything worth having takes deliberate and sustained effort to build. The same is true of Black Accountability Groups.
If a group is going to work, it needs to be diverse, trustworthy, dependable, reciprocal, and brutally honest. Those are the values that make up the formula for effective group culture. In fact, they are so important that without them the chances of your group succeeding are slim.
My first Accountability Group was a collection of my closest friends. Unfortunately, we were pretty much the same. We all had similar jobs, were around the same age, we were all Black (of course) and male, and had the same skill sets. That meant we didn’t have too much to learn from one another: none of us were successful and so we didn’t have the wisdom that success brings to give to one another.
As the saying goes, “If you are the smartest person in the room, change rooms.” So we recruited successful local business owners, professionals, and academics who accelerated our professional and intellectual growth. We brought in younger members who would challenge our ideas and forced us to prove that our “success strategies” actually produced results. We recruited women who brought a whole new energy to the group.
Our group was all Black, but that was the only similarity that our members shared besides the core values of the group.
One of the values that my first Black Accountability Group worked hard to develop was trust, and here is why:
On one hand, I didn’t want to risk sharing an idea with the group, only to have it stolen. I didn’t want to share my insecurities, failures, and weaknesses with someone who would use it against me down the line. And I definitely didn’t want to risk having information leak to people outside of the group.
On the other hand, I knew that for an Accountability Group to work, members would have to share ideas, insecurities, and private information with others. That’s the only way that members would be able to give one another the feedback they would need to succeed.
So to build trust, we tried a number of things that included the following:
- Taking turns sharing deeply personal things about ourselves with the group. That way everyone had something on everyone, true. But we also found that by giving trust to the group, you get trust in return.
- Giving time to each other. Every week, members were required to complete a task for another member of the group. The task had to be related to helping another member achieve a goal of theirs, and could be as simple as creating a personalized diet and workout plan to something as complex as building a website. This created a group culture where members worked for one another instead of exclusively for themselves.
- Shared challenges. Nothing brings people together like a shared challenge. The harder the challenge, the deeper the bonds. Group camping trips where we only ate what we hunted, physical challenges that we performed as a group, and hosting an event together were all challenges that my past groups engaged in. Regardless of the outcomes, we all had war stories at the end.
Having legal protection like non disclosure agreements in place helps too, but you can build trust more easily with carrots than sticks.
The point is this: Trust is the foundation of any Accountability Group. Without it, members will never feel comfortable sharing important information about themselves, their business, or their goals and your group becomes impotent. Ignore trust building efforts at your own peril.
Before my first Black Accountability Group took off it seemed like every week a different group of people would show up. We rarely had the same people in the same room week after week. That made it difficult to build trust, hold members accountable, and create a culture.
When we addressed this with group members, we found ways to help them improve their dependability. We invested time in defining and understanding the value dependability and how it relates to personal growth.
The bottom line is that dependability creates consistency in individuals and stability within groups – both important aspects of accountability. Invest time in developing the dependability of your group members and you will get your investment back ten fold.
Every now and then, a member would come into our group that had no interest in doing anything for other members of the group. They were out for themselves and treated our group like a gas station; they would fill up, drive off, and come back when they needed something.
Not only did this behavior compromise the trust of the group, it encouraged other members to start taking without offering anything of value.
While giving time to each other helped us create a culture of reciprocity, the best way that we used to flush out takers was by starving them. We intentionally withheld resources and feedback from takers until they became more reciprocal.
Not only did this strategy work for our group, I employed it in my personal life to get rid of some leeches of my own.
The best Accountability Groups are filled with people who are just as excited about giving the resources they have to help other members as they are about getting help from others. Strive to create the same dynamic in your group and in your life.
Open Hearted Honesty
One of the hardest things that new members face is criticism from people that they don’t know. Having other people closely examine your goals and deeply held beliefs is a challenge for anyone, particularly to those who are not used to the open format of Accountability Groups.
That is why it is essential to constantly emphasize that every group member has the best interest of others at heart. Criticism should always come from a place of open hearted honesty. When new members know and trust the intentions of the rest of the group, they are more likely to accept feedback and give honest criticism in turn.
Whenever I was about to drop reality on a member, I would preface it by saying “this is coming from a place of respect, and I want you to succeed so I need to give you my honest feedback.”
The more genuine the feedback, the more trust new members will gain for the group. Build a culture of open hearted honesty into your group and your members will benefit far more than if you withheld important information from one another.
Running Successful Accountability Groups
If you jumped straight to this section, stop and re-read the previous one. If the spirit and culture of the group isn’t right then the group will fail – no matter how well-run the group is.
This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way – I have organized dozens of groups and the only ones still alive are the ones with positive values and cultures that the members respect and abide by.
The key to running a successful Black Accountability Group is combining culture with structure. When my previous Accountability Groups were at their strongest, we evolved a few guidelines to make sure we stayed true to purpose. Here are a few guidelines:
Meet at the same time, in the same place, with the same frequency: I have been a part of groups that met at different locations each week. This confused old members and and hurt the stability of the group. I have also been a part of groups where we changed the meeting time to accommodate work schedules. Don’t make the same mistake. Set the time and the place and stick to it. If you hold meetings once per week or twice per month, make sure members are committed to respecting the frequency of the schedule.
Treat meeting time as sacred time: Keep the BS to a minimum during the meeting and save socialization for before and after. Maintain a tight schedule to demonstrate a respect for everyone’s time.
Create and abide by an agenda that gives everyone time to build: My group meetings were always divided into three segments: Administration, Accountability, and Personal Development.
During the Administration segment, we collected dues (if applicable), voted on changes to how we did things, gave updates on group projects (if applicable) and made announcements. We also built in time to freestyle or for individuals to address concerns.
The Accountability segment would last about 60 minutes, and usually went something like this: A member would read their goals from the previous meeting. They would then list the ones they achieved (and how they did it) along with the goals that they failed to achieve. He or she would talk about why they think the failure happened, and others would step in with feedback. The next member in the circle would then be assigned the task of helping them to achieve their missed goal for the next week. (Re: Building trust and reciprocity).
The goals from the previous week that were missed were carried forward, and the member would announce their goals for the upcoming meeting. Each member was given 10 minutes and could take up as much of that time as they wanted. Once our group grew beyond 7 members, we would break down into smaller groups during this time to ensure we weren’t spending 2 hours going around a circle.
The Personal Development segment would last about 45 minutes, and featured a guest speaker that we recruited from the community. Each meeting’s development addressed one of the 5 elements of life. One week, we would bring in a personal trainer. The next week, we would bring in a Certified Financial Planner. Other weeks, we may bring in real estate investors, meditation coaches, public speaker trainers, relationship counselors, or city Councilmen.
Usually these speakers came from the personal networks of each member. Sometimes, we would reach out to high powered influencers and use the dues that we collected to pay them an honorarium.
We would choose guest speakers based on the needs of the members in the group. If none of the members were interested in Real Estate, but multiple members had issues with achieving their spiritual goals, we would seek guest speakers that could help with the latter instead of the former. And if a speaker couldn’t be secured, the members themselves would ‘teach’.
Following this agenda, we rarely had meetings that lasted more than 2 hours.
These rules worked for my group, but feel free to add, take away and modify rules for your own benefit. It may take a few weeks to feel out what works for the group, but once you have collectively decided how things should proceed then stick to it.
I have spent so much time building on Accountability Groups because I truly believe they are a viable solution for our people. A movement and a community is only as strong as the people in it. So I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and recruit people near you who are as interested in leveling up as you are. If you don’t have anyone in your immediate circle, use resources like Facebook (?), Meetup.com, or Eventbrite to find others near you who would be interested in building.
Either way, if you have struggled with staying accountable and achieving your goals, a Black Accountability Group may be your answer.