This is why the Tinterwebs is such a brilliant invention. Cos you set up a blog, and you have a great bunch of people reading (and that includes you very occasional commenters, and heck, you lurkers too). And, just when I am mulling over accountability and group dynamics and the difference between exasperation (not so good, but not the end of the world) and contempt (really really bad), along comes the comment blockquoted below on a recent post called “Group problems: lists and listlessness“.
It’s from them super-experienced, compassionate and thoughtful folks at Rhizome (which, in a sensible world, would have NGO’s beating down their doors [non-violently] for advice and training around capacity-building and the like.)
Here’s the comment: –
Accountability is a huge issue and there’s a fear of it in some non-hierarchical groups because it smacks of leadership (who am I to appoint myself the person that holds others to account?)…..and that kind of thinking can seriously paralyse groups and whole movements. Ironically it can lead to more hierarchy and less accountability because the more “sorted” people will often just get together and make stuff happen cutting out those they consider unreliable altogether.
But anyone that consistently volunteers and consistently fails to deliver has some kind of issue. They don’t just get out of bed and say to themselves “today I’ll go and bugger up a meeting”. And the only way we can solve the problem is to find out what that issue is and put in place appropriate support.
Possible issues might include:
*genuinely wanting to help but not receiving adequate support to do so
*poor consensus process leading to people “agreeing” to things they don’t really believe in, so once away from the pressure of the meeting they let it slide
*lack of adequate summaries/good minutes meaning that they leave the meeting with a task which later they realise they don’t really understand
*hypercritical groups – people would rather lunch them out than risk doing the task and being told in graphic detail that they’ve done it wrong
*poor power dynamics in a group leading to this kind of behaviour becoming one way of attracting the attention of the group
Years of poor meetings inevitably create a culture where that kind of thing is at least acceptable if not the norm, so there’s a real need to find ways of moving forwards. Possible strategies include – airing the issues; asking rather than assuming to find out why it’s happening; offering mentoring/buddying or other support around roles and tasks; setting clear expectations in meetings (including deadlines, quality, accountability) using a decision making process that people are actually committed to, a culture of constructive feedback for shared learning and group development; and so on.
Shouting at people is wrong? Who knew…
Well, the Buddhists, obviously. And anyone not getting off on a powertrip/egotrip. And the… look, it was a rhetorical question, alright??