Personal Accountability Doesn't Equal Team Accountability!

accept responsibility accountability accountable leadership culture leadership in management management personal responsibility responsibility and accountability in leadership team leadership Dec 09, 2021
Responsibility and Accountability in Leadership

Let’s think back to something that was part of what I shared last time from Lack of Accountability in the Workplace is Expensive, Fix It, “As a leader, it’s your job to create an environment in which everyone should come to work every single day and do what they do best.”

If you and I do what we do best, that’s certainly a step toward building a culture of accountability. And if everyone one our team does that same thing, there should be a reasonable expectation for our organization to maintain a high standard of accountability in everything we do, right? Maybe not…

In a Harvard Business Review article called Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams, authors Lynda Gratton and Tamara Erickson shared, “the greater the proportion of experts a team had, the more likely it was to disintegrate into nonproductive conflict or stalemate.” This is where it becomes critical for each of us with any kind of leadership responsibility whatsoever to do the hard work of holding everyone around accountable for working effectively as a team - in addition to coming to work every single day and doing what they do best!

Guess what? That’s stinking hard!

I recently worked through Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, again after reading it for the first time six or seven years ago. As he shared a tale describing those dysfunctions, he made a brief reference to why most of us tend to find it more difficult to hold our peers accountable, or really anyone else with a similar level of expertise to what we have in our own lane, than it is to maintain that same kind of accountability with the team members who report to us. He suggested that this often ties back to the discomfort we feel from challenging that person who’s likely just as good at what they do as we are at what we do. I believe that’s where the statement from the HBR article comes into play…

Just being great at what we do doesn’t necessarily translate into being great at doing it together. We frequently see this in sports when the teams with the highest payrolls and best individual players don’t even make the playoffs. The same thing can happen in our organizations unless the leader holds every single team member accountable for not only doing what they do best every single day, but also for doing it in a way that best serves the entire team! We’ll start digging just how a leader - who may or may not be the person in charge - does exactly that soon!