There is an interesting thing about the best teams, they just keep getting better. When I am with them, I am constantly trying to figure what it is that makes the difference. For awhile I thought it was something to do with who was in the leadership positions. While I think this clearly does make a difference, I have also noticed something else, namely the whole team holds people accountable, not just the person in the leadership position.
The subject of accountability continues to be a popular topic. Everyone is talking about it and few are clear about what it means and how to do it. Most people focus this subject on the supervisor and direct report relationship, as in holding a person accountable for getting something done. However, few recognize that holding people accountable is supervisor to direct report, but even more so on successful teams it happens at the peer to peer level. It is interesting to note we often do the former and skip the later.
When it comes to accountability, we also don’t differentiate between results based accountability and behavioral based accountability. As Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2012), wrote: “Even well-intentioned members of a team need to be held accountable if a team is going to stick to its decisions and accomplish its goals…. The reason that behavioral accountability is more important than the quantitative, results-related kind has nothing to do with the fact that it is harder. It is due to the fact that behavioral problems almost always precede - and cause - a downturn in performance and results.” As he continues, “The ultimate point of building greater trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: the achievement of results.”
In order to successfully hold people accountable, and to get them to hold each other accountable, i.e. peer-to-peer, all involved have to know their personal SMART goals, and their team’s SMART goals. You would be surprised with how many do not know the later and only focus on the former. Furthermore, people have to know what is expected of them at the individual level and at the team level. Finally, leaders need to create an environment where people feel safe enough to be coached, to receive feedback and to give it.
When it comes to continual improvement and effective accountability on all levels, I believe the leaders and the teams need to understand the individual and group “why”. As Simon Sinek writes, “What I’m interested in is what gets people up every single day to do something, maybe pay a premium, maybe suffer inconvenience, maybe sacrifice because they’re driven by something else. What is that thing? What I’ve learned is it’s that question, why. It has a biological imperative, it drives us, it inspires us.”
This week, think about and discuss with others the difference between results based accountability and behavioral based accountability. Then check to make sure you know the team’s why and the individuals on the team’s why. This will make a difference in how you move forward and prepare for the new year.