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Home » Teams

Accountability in teams

Submitted by on Thursday, 15 November 2012No Comment

Fostering accountability in teamsFostering accountability in teams, workgroups, departments and companies is an age-old challenge in business.

First, we have the problem of risk aversion in companies which we covered in this post here.

Then this week, this survey by the Harvard Business Review tells us that one out of every two managers are ‘terrible’ at fostering accountability. Why?

The fundamental problem, the study tells us, is fear of loss of social support. Basically, if a manager corrects a colleague or holds him accountable for a certain act, then the risk is that the colleague will ‘take revenge’ one way or the other. Better to remain silent than poke the hornet’s nest!

3 additional barriers to accountability in teams include:

· If I hold you accountable it means I need to be accountable too.

· Fear of failure. Fear of being able to achieve our goals.

· If we achieve our goals, you may make me even more accountable next time!

What prevents accountability in teams

What prevents accountability in teams boils down to one word: power. It’s important to recognise that when we make ourselves more accountable we always lose power – at first. That is because we are handing over power to others, so that they may judge our actions.

Teambuilding in Thailand

But look again. If we can bargain away a little of our power to others, we can also make a claim on some of their power. By making ourselves more accountable, we can also make others more accountable.

1 + 1 = 2.

We no longer start operating as individuals or groups, but as teams.

And if we can make ourselves accountable to each other so that we work to our strengths, we then start getting a multiplier.

2 x 2 = 4.

So while, at first, giving accountability means losing power, the premise of a team is that you do so in order to achieve greater power together.

How to foster accountability in teams

Most companies will start with the goal ‘we need greater accountability among our employees’ and then cascade goals and objectives from that.

Then the initiative falls flat. Why? Because accountability itself is dependent on other factors. Like commitment. And trust.

So how can we foster greater accountability in teams?

The best way in our opinion, is to use this model (from Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team). It takes teams seamlessly up the levels from Trust to Accountability for Results. If you’re interested, feel free to check out the programme details here.

It’s also helpful to use a framework for your strategy so that you can achieve buy-in at every step, and achieve ‘small wins’ along the way. This process does not add time at all. Far from it. It saves time!

If we follow this discipline and resist the temptation for ‘route one style accountability’, this is the surest way to foster accountability in teams. Job done!

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