Three Steps to Build Accountability

We’ve talked about trust, conflict and commitment. They’re vital ingredients of high-performing teams except… we haven’t actually done any work yet. Following a decision, once work is underway, teams can often be tripped up by a lack of accountability – an unwillingness to hold each other to account for delivery.

Accountability can only be built on top of the the previous foundations. A lack of mutual trust will cause individuals to wary of being honest when they’re struggling – and seeking and offering help to team-mates. Skipping conflict and commitment will result in weak buy-in to the team’s plans. But if you’ve worked through these stages with your team, there are three steps to improve accountability in delivery:

  1. Check that everyone’s clear about the SMART objectives for themselves and the team. Keep them constantly visible. When the measures are quantitative, build dashboards and reports so everyone can easily monitor progress, and understand who’s responsible for what.
  2. Have a regular pattern of review. Whether that’s daily stand-ups, weekly progress meetings, monthly reports. Progress against this objectives should be the primary thing on the agendas of these meetings. Incentivise the team so that the who team gets rewarded when progress is made, not just individuals.
  3. Create a culture of celebrating success, creative problem-solving and learning from failure, rather than blame. This is not about finger-pointing or “holding people’s feet to the fire” – those behaviours will provoke defensiveness and introversion. Instead, we’re trying to hold people responsible for delivery, and keen to engage when things are going awry, to push through difficulties to achieve results.

For more on accountability, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni is a great read. And if you’d like some help building trust, managing healthy conflict, achieving commitment and building accountability in your organisation, please get in touch.


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