It’s up to leaders to build accountability on their teams and in their organizations. When a team is weak and individuals aren’t held accountable, the team’s culture can become toxic. Team members start to withhold information and resources from one another. People become isolated. They can’t trust each other.
But when leaders step up and individuals are held accountable, teams begin to run more smoothly. As trust grows, team members can more easily work out issues and disputes among themselves, freeing leaders up to focus on strategy.
What sets accountable, high-performance teams apart from mediocre ones? Accountable teams have two things: clarity and commitment.
An accountable team is one that understands the context in which they operate and has a clear understanding of what the team’s contribution must be. Teams with high clarity:
- Are knowledgeable about economic, social, and political trends that affect their organization.
- Understand their organization’s mission and its strategy for accomplishing its goals.
- Know how their work connects to the work being done elsewhere in the company.
- Know what value they must deliver for stakeholders both within and outside of the company.
- Understand what each individual, and the team as a whole, must do and when it must be done.
Clarity alone is not enough to build accountability. Accountable teams must also be fully committed to doing what it takes to deliver the value they’re responsible for. Teams with high commitment are:
- Fully committed to getting results.
- Willing to work across silos and collaborate with colleagues throughout the organization.
- Driven to improving their team.
- Committed to supporting one another.
Leaders who want to improve their teams and drive high performance should focus on developing greater clarity and commitment among team members.
If you put in the effort to develop clarity and commitment and build accountability on your team, you will:
- Align your direct reports around the next steps and top priorities.
- Make team members more supportive and drive higher performance.
- Create space for team members to speak directly about issues rather than avoiding hard conversations.
- Draw on each team member’s unique strengths.
- Create an atmosphere where everyone is committed to getting results but also to lifting each other up and celebrating wins.
We do more and more of our work in teams, and our teams are becoming more and more complex. Many teams today incorporate people from multiple departments or even people from outside the organization. And in a hybrid world where teams do much of their work remotely, building team accountability is more challenging than ever.
In this context, it’s more important than ever before to ensure that our teams are truly accountable. As a leader, it’s on you to go first and set the tone. You must step up and hold your team accountable—you must build a high-performance team. Are you ready to do the work?