Executive Education

Creating a Culture of Accountability: 5 Ways to Transform Solo Achievers into Group Contributors

Muffy Churches

Do some of your team members have a mindset that is self-serving, with an attitude of independence from the pack?  Are they minimalists who define their success in personal, individualistic terms rather than strongly linking their efforts to the big picture and to ensuring that they play a dynamic role in project outcomes and team orientated results?

If so, you may have a team suffering from ‘disconnection syndrome’- a noxious orientation that challenges the ability to achieve high performance through the hallmarks of ‘ownership and accountability’.  The degree to which your team members are able to serve the whole, not just the part, will be strongly reflected in your business results.

A culture of accountability engenders trust, a personal sense of responsibility to outcomes, shared commitment to strategic goals, collaboration, constant constructive feedback, and the courage to hold both self and others answerable.  It is about being immediately responsive, proactive, and completion focused- Essentially, about getting things done when they need to be.

When these behaviours are lacking, a team suffers from underachievement: “I sent her an email, but never heard back” (Shoulder shrug), “I called once but the line was busy” (Done my bit),  “Do I have to do everything around here”(Victim), “It’s not my job to chase him up”(Resentment), “That’s not what I get paid to spend my time doing”, (Pride) “I’m too busy” (Self importance), “That’s not in my KPI’s” (I only do what I have to).  In many cases, this ‘I work within my own set of boundaries’ attitude can be turned around by addressing matters of both the head and the heart.

Here are five tips for converting solo participants into team players with an enhanced sense of commitment to group goals.

Create a trusting environment:

Set expectations for team engagement that is non-judgmental, accepting, respectful and gracefully honest.  When team members feel ‘safe’ with each other, they are willing to risk vulnerability to the group, and will contribute ideas, suggestions, and constructive feedback without fearing hidden agendas, ridicule, cynicism or one upmanship. Interpersonal trust is the key and the all-important driver behind an enhanced sense of personal responsibility to make a contribution- to playing one’s part in creating positive steps toward the achievement of an agreed goal.

Encourage robust discussion:

Once a safe environment of interpersonal trust has been created, generate round table contribution of solution-focused conversation in which everyone provides input.  Having the opportunity to have ones’ ideas heard and considered inspires ownership of and participation in any eventual strategic plan of action agreed upon.

Communicate a clear vision:

Everyone needs to know exactly what it is they are going to be accountable to.  Make it your responsibility to clarify in detail the desired end result of any plan of action, decision, or goal.  Ensure that not only is a vivid picture of desired outcomes painted but also that the team has a clear view of the attributes for engagement and participation, to which they are to hold each other accountable.

Ensure commitment

Having ensured that the team understands the rules of the accountability game, what ‘success’ looks like and their specific role within that dynamic, request a pledge to those exact actions, work values and attitudes that will ensure that the outcome envisioned comes to fruition, essentially placing team results over ego issues.

Promote real-time peer feedback

Having set the scene for the creation of an environment that serves as an effective framework for accountability, all good intentions will crumble as soon as a blind eye is turned to low performance standards. Provide your team with both your permission and your expectation that each will hold the other accountable- responsible to a primary focus on agreed results and all the enacted team values and behaviours that go hand in hand with making that happen.

None of us can be forced to think or behave in a prescribed fashion. The driving motivation to ‘be accountable’ must come from within, but may be influenced from without.  Encouraging a team sense of trust, inclusion, respect, and of being a valued contributor to an envisioned end result, will help to pull lone wolves from their protective lairs.

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Written by: Muffy Churches, a corporate trainer, executive coach, speaker, author, and counselor, she has extensive experience in inspiring and initiating positive behavioral change in clients around the world.

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Muffy Churches
Muffy Churches is the author of Coach Yourself, A 7-Step Guide to Personal Fulfilment (Love & Write Publishing). Born in the US and settled in Sydney, she works as executive coach, leadership trainer, speaker, author, and counsellor. She has extensive experience in inspiring and initiating positive behavioural change in clients around the world.