When Teams Are Not Accountable

Commitment and accountability of team members is an area that challenges many of leaders that I work with. They stumble when contemplating how to have an effective, productive conversation regarding the lack of accountability of a team member. It often starts with ‘I trust you but….’ and then goes into repetitious conversation around expectations not met, excuses given, and another promise made to do better. Then, the matter is dropped until the next time.

So, what does a Culture of Trust have to do with Accountability?

This is part 3 in the 5-part series on Dysfunctional Teams by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.

Commitment, Accountability, Culture of Trust, Dysfunctional Teams, Trust, Lack of Trust, Avoid Confrontation, Disengagement, Ask Question, Be Curious, Invite Dialogue, Strengths, Strengths Based Leadership, StrengthsFinder, Leadership Coach

you can reestablish commitment. Prompt your team to ask questions and be curious. Click To Tweet

Dysfunctional teams cannot be blamed for all business failures, but they play a major role in unsuccessful projects and missed goals. In his acclaimed bestseller, organizational consultant Patrick Lencioni identifies The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. No accountability
5. Lack of attention to results

No team functions well without trust in their leaders. Equally important is trust among team members. Without trust, people don’t openly debate the issues, explore new ideas or collectively solve problems.

Worse, lack of trust leads to complacency, consensus and groupthink where everyone just ‘goes along to get along.’ There is no real commitment and no accountability to each other. In the end, teams are distracted. They lose focus on the results they were designed to achieve and there is a risk to losing collective innovation.

When there is a Lack of Commitment in Teams
When teams lack trust and fear conflict they are likely to avoid collaboration, commitment and accountability. Instead, they focus on self-preservation and maintaining amicable relationships. As people attempt to avoid confrontation, they stop listening to others’ concerns and discussions become superficially polite, maintaining the status quo.

For example, I hear about this a lot in coaching sessions. Most people can sense when someone is not listening to their ideas or questions. This single dynamic – often subtle ­– will shut down team engagement and commitment, and an underlying tension quietly grows.

Teammates who are cut off or marginalized feel left out. They become less committed to team effort, and are unlikely to ‘get with the program.’ The team finds it difficult to move forward amid stalled decisions or incomplete assignments. Enthusiasm for and buy-in to projects takes a nosedive and confrontations become commonplace. Some members stop caring and disengage from whether the team succeeds.

Disengagement becomes a problem when you, the leader, courageously fail to address the lack of trust and fail to convey clear expectations of the team member’s behaviors that invite trust in one another and you. Without that clarity people are left to act as they please and the team’s success is no longer their top priority. They mentally check out and simply start going through the motions.

However, you can reestablish commitment. Prompt your team members to ask questions and be curious about what their team members bring to the table. When you invite dialogue, and understanding through the strengths lens, teammates learn more about each other. They have the opportunity to see others’ intentions, attitudes, motives and mindsets more clearly – eliminating the need to guess or assume. This sets the stage for collaboration and problem solving.

Successful leaders, like you, solicit all opinions, positions and ideas, while affirming those who offer them. You make a point to consider all input and perspectives, which imparts a sense of worthiness to team members.

When team members experience a culture of trust – where their voices matter and have received a clear vision and direction – they become infused with confidence, engagement and commitment. People want to be led in ways that assure success and fulfillment. People want you, the leader, to provide a clear vision, engender trust, provide security and demonstrate compassion.

Have you experienced working within a culture of trust? What has been your experience creating a culture of trust within your teams? I would love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.

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