Cultivating Shared Accountability

Bob Schultek Author of The Gauntlet

High performing teams exhibit a shared commitment and accountability to achieve their goals.

This outcome is the result of their leader linking individual team member accountability with the team’s responsibility to hold one another accountable for the fulfillment of their commitment.

It’s a culture in which the team, not the leader, serves as the ultimate arbiter of its performance. It’s a culture grounded in team dialogue, nurtured by the leader, who establishes ground rules to ensure that discussions remain positive and productive, while affirming the leader’s role as final decision-maker when necessary.

To encourage dialogue, team meetings under this culture replace individual report-outs to the leader with team conversations. Short reports of specific actions, key wins and significant challenges are distributed by each teammate prior to the meeting. As the meeting progresses, each team member shares just one win and one challenge, soliciting comments or suggestions from the team regarding the challenge. The evolving discussion models a reporting out to one another, versus just to the leader, fostering a dialogue that strengthens the team’s sense of shared accountability to achieve their goals.

During these discussions of challenges, the leader seeks to preserve balance between the peer pressure of individual accountability and the team’s awareness that its success depends on the performance of each team member. In this culture, holding one another accountable means sharing responsibility for supporting one team member when that person faces a challenge that is impacting team performance. No team member wants to disappoint valued teammates who are relying on each individual’s performance to achieve their targeted team outcome.

And appreciating the need to keep short-term actions aligned with longer-term strategic goals, the leader also allocates time during these meetings to discuss strategic or cross-functional issues aimed at improving team performance or the company’s progress. By shifting the focus from tactical/functional to strategic/future, the team is enabled to get their heads up and focused on purpose, mission or vision, so they may monitor progress resulting from their actions. In this way, the leader conveys confidence in the team, and respect for their expertise and commitment, accelerating the development of their shared accountability.

How are you cultivating shared accountability with your team?

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