When Teams Lack Accountability

Why Accountability? Everyone talks about it. Leaders want it. Employees are often afraid of it. What about it is so difficult and elusive? Who do you need to be as a leader to make accountability stick? What does it take to establish accountability touch points? And, for the sake of what? I am always asking these questions.

Accountability, Teamwork, Peer-to-Peer, Commitment, Engagement, Dysfunction, Clear Vision, Us, Team, Clarity, Direction, Expectations, Trust, Vulnerability, Strengths, Strengths Based Leadership, StrengthsFinder, Leadership Coach

Accountability can be restored with a trustworthy environment and transparent project management. Click To Tweet

Accountability is a term that is overused in the workplace and, as a result, loses some of its power. Here’s a good definition from Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Jossey-Bass, 2002).

“When it comes to teamwork, I define accountability as the willingness of team members to remind one another when they are not living up to the performance standards of the group.”

Here’s why this is so important:

“Peer pressure and the distaste for letting down a colleague will motivate a team player more than any fear of authoritative punishment or rebuke.”

What really works in groups of people working together is peer-to-peer accountability and it’s stronger than any fear of punishment from a supervisor. Like the other team dysfunctions I’ve been posting about , when accountability is lacking in teams, it contributes to project failures.

Teams without Accountability
If you, as a leader, fail to address and reverse the lack of engagement and commitment in team members, dysfunction will intensify. Over time, team members lose their sense of urgency for accountability. If there is little buy-in, there is little demand to meet obligations, follow through with commitments or help others.

Lack of accountability is most common in environments where there is no clear vision, resulting in progress being difficult to adequately assess. And, where definitive project schedules exist but are not necessarily expected to be met. There is no US in the team environment.

When there is a lack of vision, directives are unclear. Roles are ill defined and not aligned to strengths. People have less impetus to account for their performance and progress. In the extreme, progress is not even possible. Lack of leadership clarity leaves people disengaged, confused, frustrated or apathetic.

There can even be uncertainty as to who is on the team. Members may shift on or off, or their duties may be reversed, dropped or unspecified. People will have no sense of interdependency – the team’s sense of US and reason for attaining results is lost.

Working toward establishing a clear vision with clear directions, standards and expectations takes a strong, courageous leader to step up. All team members need to be given and work with the same information set at all times. Trust in clear, attainable and understandable expectations helps to drive activities and allow workflow to meet interconnected goals.

Having an activity tracking method that is transparent and clearly reports the status of tasks is helpful. Corrective action plans are necessary to make important adjustments and to redirect people and activities accordingly. Accountability can be restored with a trustworthy environment, which includes transparent project management. When you show vulnerability and provide a clear vision and direction your people will not want to let you, nor their teammates down. You restore the US in the team.

Do you have a clear vision and provide clear direction? What makes accountability challenging with your team? I would love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.


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