A team of facilitators from our organization, The Wildfire Project, was invited to support a base-building group whose staff was absolutely burnt out. Our first workshop brought their staff together with a volunteer leadership team (from their base) who, until then, had been minimally engaged. Staff shared their overwhelm and laid out their workload. It was clear that unless the whole group took collective ownership and responsibility for the direction of the organization, it would collapse.
We ended that first session together on the other side of that breakthrough: feeling grateful, connected, and on-purpose. But the more difficult work began when we came back together to make that vision of shared leadership real. We dug into a process of reimagining the structure, roles, and expectations for a more active volunteer leadership team. That discussion ran aground on fears about the accountability such a new structure would require.
Like most of us, they had many negative experiences of “accountability.” They worried that holding each other accountable might break their relationships, undermine their care for each other, and replicate the worst dynamics of other groups they’d been part of. They worried that if they held each other to high expectations, some people would not meet them and would have to leave.
The group had a choice to make. Their old way of being was clearly not working.