“I can’t believe Matt dropped the ball again,” Sara vented after the team meeting. “Last time he did this we lost two weeks and missed our deadline. We look like we don’t know what we’re doing.”
“And, it makes me wonder why I try so hard,” Angela joined in. “At least once a week I ask … why am I killing myself if the rest of the team doesn’t seem to care?”
“I wonder why Sean doesn’t deal with it?” Sara thoughts escaped her mind, “Doesn’t he know how frustrating it is for the rest of us?”
“It’s just not fair,” Angela, lamented, “Besides, what he does is easy compared to what we do around here!”
The peaceful murder
Instead of avoidance, silence, or water cooler venting self-managed teams embrace accountability. As teammates they agree to call each other out when it comes to unproductive behavior and underperformance.
Embracing accountability is the fourth behavior of a cohesive team. But before such accountability is practiced your team must build trust. Likewise, your team’s ability and willingness to engage in conflict and commit to decisions must be buzzing.
Silence kills top performing teams. When a team avoids accountability, it will…
- Create resentment
- Encourage status quo behavior
- Elevate status quo performance
- Burden the team leader with the team’s responsibility to be accountable to one another
Top-performing teams speak up, holding each another accountable for commitments made. Individuals are then accountable to the team, not just the team leader.
Protected by accountability
Self-managed teams demonstrate an ability and willingness to address poor performance and unproductive behavior because it will hurt team success.
When a team embraces accountability, watch how they…
- Place pressure on poor performers
- Question approaches without hesitation, heading off potential problems
- Establish high standards for all
- Move performance management to the team
It takes courage to push through the discomfort that accompanies accountability. But, what if your team would challenge each another by:
- Giving immediate feedback?
- Addressing unproductive behaviors?
- Creating clearer priorities and goals?
- Examining missed deadlines?
- Following through on personal commitments to the team?
- Enjoying more productive meetings?
What would that be worth to your organization?
Kill the silence
Angela and Sara committed to break the silence with Matt and the team.
At the project meeting, Sara led the way, “Matt, everyone knows we’re 3 weeks behind on the Smith Project, what happened?”
“The vendor dropped the ball,” Matt muttered with a quick glance toward Sean.
Angela continued, “When do you think we can expect delivery?”
“No promises were made.”
“When could you find out?”
Finally, Matt looked up, “Well, I could call this afternoon.”
“Great,” Sara jumped-in, “What if you let us know by 4:30?”
“I can do that,” Matt replied.
While it looked like a small victory, it provided Sara and Angela hope that they might still get the project done on time. It was a start.
To be clear, the team is accountable for the decision to embrace accountability. It is a shared responsibility.
How will you start?
First, review the benefits of embracing accountability with your team. Then, discuss team-based accountability as an expectation … commit to mastering conflict. You will find it helpful to establish ground rules; what makes it a safe environment to start speaking up? Such effort will help build trust and allow your team to focus on results.
It will take time. It’s uncomfortable for most of us. But the silence must be replaced with genuine concern and a focus on both the people and results. Avoiding conflict is not a solution.
Let me know, if I may help.
Here’s to your next level,
PS: The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ is a result of the partnership between Wiley Workplace Learning Solutions and best-selling author Patrick Lencioni. The assessment is based on his best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and powered by Everything DiSC Workplace. Next Level Executive Coaching, LLC is an independent Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team Authorized Partner.
Click to review a Five Behaviors Sample Report.
Photo credit: Phil Jern via flickr