Cultivating Team Accountability

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Since leaders are responsible for the performance of their teams, they often assume the role of primary accountability monitor for each team member.  

In team meetings, each teammate reports to the leader, in turn, on her or his activities. The result is a one-sided presentation of information between team member and leader, with little dialogue occurring among the rest of the team. This creates an environment in which team members assume that the leader is the only one responsible for sustaining accountability, so others on the team withhold their comments that might support their teammate’s performance, or worse, that might raise a concern that something is not working well. 

The most effective means of ensuring individual accountability, and exceptional team performance, is peer pressure. Having made a shared team commitment to an objective, nothing motivates individual accountability more efficiently than the fear of disappointing valued teammates who are relying on each individual’s performance to achieve their targeted team outcome. 

It falls to the leader to transform this individual peer pressure fear into a productive shared team accountability by creating a culture where the team serves as the ultimate arbiter of its performance. It’s a culture that commits a team to holding one another accountable by sharing responsibility for supporting one member when that person faces a challenge. It’s a culture grounded in team dialogue, nurtured by the leader, who establishes ground rules and acts as final decision-maker when necessary.  

Team meetings under this culture replace individual report-outs to the leader with team conversations. Using short reports of actions, wins and challenges distributed by each teammate prior to the meeting, these discussions evolve as each team member shares just one key win and one significant challenge from her or his report, followed by a solicitation for comments and suggestions from the team. Reporting out to one another, and fostering team dialogue about challenges, strengthens the team’s bond to its shared commitment and to one another.  

A leader who carves out time at the end of each meeting for the team to discuss longer term, more strategic issues aimed at improving team performance or the company’s progress, accelerates the development of team shared accountability.  

How are you cultivating shared accountability with your team?

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