Have you ever given up learning a language?
After triumphantly telling yourself one day that “Yes, I’m finally going to learn this language!”, have you ever stopped studying, let go of your learning or otherwise let your fluency falter?
It’s happened to the best of us, myself included.
Sometimes the language is harder than we expected, or we run out of time, money, or energy to fuel our learning. The unluckiest of us have had this happen several times, across several languages.
Sometimes, willpower is just not strong enough to get you to your goals.
There is a tool to combat this, however.
Social accountability, discussed in the previous article, is a powerful tool that outsources your willpower to follow through, and uses the innate human desire for consistency to keep you moving towards your goals, even when motivation is low.
The first form of social accountability is the accountability partnership, where you build a one-to-one relationship with another person that supports you both in achieving your goals.
The next, more powerful form of accountability is known as the accountability group.
What Is an Accountability Group?
An accountability group is an “expanded” version of an accountability partnership.
With an accountability partner, you are ideally holding them accountable for their goals, and they are holding you accountable to yours.
In an accountability group, you are further leveraging the power of this relationship by building accountability with several people at once. Each member of an accountability group holds each other member accountable for following through on their commitments.
Accountability groups are more potent than accountability partnerships (at least theoretically), since any failure to follow through will cause you to lose face with several people at once, instead of a single person. With more people to answer to, you will be more compelled to achieve your set goal.
Types of Accountability Group
General Accountability Group
General accountability groups, most often referred to as simply accountability groups, are primarily about making commitments and using social accountability to stay consistent with those commitments.
Members of accountability groups meet regularly to discuss their goals. During each meeting, each member will ideally set a short-term goal that will help them meet their ultimate goal. Once the short-term goal is in place, it is expected that the member in question will meet that goal prior to the next group session.
A second, increasingly popular variety of accountability group is known as the Mastermind Group. The term was initially coined by author Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich.
Hill strongly believed that one of the major keys of success in any endeavor was to build and rely upon a group of trusted advisors, that used their diverse individual perspectives to create a greater “Master Mind” that was more powerful and intuitive than the mind of any one individual within the group.
Hill defined the Mastermind as follows:
“Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” (Think and Grow Rich, p. 62)
The strength of the Mastermind group lies in its foundation in group feedback. Members of the group do not only use the group to leverage accountability, but to elicit various perspectives in constructively criticizing their actions and goals, in turn. Group input and brainstorming in this way is useful in helping individual members overcome obstacles and address concerns in their progress, while avoiding many of the cognitive biases that result from relying on a single perspective.
Mastermind groups can take many different formats and involve many different activities. However, one of the most common Mastermind activities is a feedback tool known as the Hot Seat.
In a “Hot Seat”-style meeting, the group as a whole focuses on the goals of one individual group member—asking questions, making comments, and suggesting improvements and course-corrections in goal setting. The recipient of all of this group feedback is said to be in the Hot Seat—hence the name. Ideally, the person in the Hot Seat rotates from meeting to meeting.
Where to Find an Accountability Group
Though concepts like accountability groups and Mastermind group have existed in the public consciousness for some time now, it is still rare to find such groups that are open to anyone wishing to join.
Most accountability groups that do have open or semi-open enrollment are based around particular communities, such as entrepreneurship and exercise. General, topic-free groups are more difficult to locate.
If you’re interested in seeing if there are any open accountability groups in your area, I suggest visiting Meetup.com and seeing what groups are nearby. Groups that fall under the category of goal-setting, personal development, motivation, and success will likely be your best options.
Accountability groups and masterminds specific to language learning are also rare, though they are gaining traction within the online community.
One language learning platform that currently integrates both types of accountability group into its offerings is the Add1Challenge, run by language learner and entrepreneur Brian Kwong.
Upon enrolling in a given Add1Challenge, learners are given the option to be automatically placed in either a mastermind group, a “study group” or both. These groups align with the two basic types of accountability groups.
The Add1Challenge’s Mastermind groups are groups of learners of different languages, while the “study groups” are for learners of the same language. Though how each individual group is run and organized is up to the members of that group, many of these groups implement accountability measures into their meetings.
How to Start an Accountability Group
The most reliable way to ensure that you end up in an accountability group that meets your needs is to start one yourself.
Though this takes considerably more work than joining a ready-made group, forming a group provides added benefits to you, the group organizer:
- You can select who to invite into the group
- You can influence meeting structure and activities
- As group creator and organizer, you will feel more responsibility for the success of the overall group, therefore you will be even more likely to follow through with your commitments.
The instructions for starting an accountability group or mastermind are quite simple:
- Find and connect with an accountability partner (using the steps outlined in this article)
- Repeat until you have 3-5 group members, including yourself
- Discuss and agree on meeting schedule and format
- Hold your meetings regularly
Social accountability can be a powerful force in helping you reach your language learning goals.
Just telling one person about your goals, and asking him or her to hold you accountable for your commitments can make you much more likely to follow through with your plans. The likelihood of success becomes even greater when you build a network of accountability partners, and gather them together in what is known as an accountability group.
Accountability groups can be based upon commitments & consistency, like general accountability groups, or on feedback and growth, like mastermind groups. No one but you can decide which is the right type of accountability group for you. You may even find success with both varieties.
In the end, the key will be to find those groups, or establish them yourself. By outsourcing your follow through to a trusted group of like-minded individuals, you will guarantee a high-degree of language learning success for both yourself and others.