Accountability: Developing Teams that Perform as Well When You Are Not There…

Accountability: Developing Teams that Perform as Well When You Are Not There…

How to create a team culture of accountability and responsibility

One of the most common complaints we hear from managers is the lack of accountability and responsibility within their teams. There are things we as leaders can do to create a culture where people take ownership of their work.

Don't Just Talk the Talk...

Don't you love the smart aleck who says "clap your hands when I say three", and then counts "one... two..." and claps on the third beat, instead of saying "three"?  We all clap too, right?  And smarty pants knows we'll fall for it every time.  Because whatever we hear goes out the window when we play follow-the-leader.

It's the same in business.  If your company's stated values are "Integrity and Excellence" but your manager spends their time making up excuses to customers as to why their projects are running late, and if the mission statement is "To provide the best quality widgets available" but your QA department is phased out to save costs, the corporate plaques in your front lobby become a signpost of dysfunction rather than of inspiration.  In reality, no one wants to work for a company that acts incongruent with its stated values – and employee turnover demonstrates this.

Disfunctional team

...Walk the Walk

In her Bullet Proof Manager session on increasing accountability and responsibility in business, Dr. Kim Alyn points out that employee modeling of these important characteristics starts at the top.  What we do as bosses, matters.   Our actions and behavior influence our team more than anything we tell them to do.  So if we want to develop teams that act with integrity and excellence, we must demonstrate those values ourselves, not simply create a “Integrity and Excellence” memo or seminar.

We can try to enforce these types of values driven behaviors through company policy.  However, unless individuals understand these values and see them as a bedrock of the organization, they will tend to comply when they think we are watching.  But if our corporate culture is values-driven, and those core values drive our own actions and interactions, people will want to get on board.   It's so much easier to get individuals acting in alignment with the values we espouse when they work in a climate that promotes, recognizes and rewards these behaviors.

Organizational Values vs Personal Values

Studies have shown that the importance of core values goes beyond the organization.  Managers need to be aware of individual’s personal values.  Personal values drive individual behavior more than the organization's values.   When people understand the true core values of the company they work for and also recognize their work aligns with their own personal values, their commitment to the organization (generally seen in the areas of accountability and responsibility) is highest.  When organizational values are fuzzy but employees still feel they can live by their own personal values, organizational commitment is still present.

The real struggle comes when organizational values are fuzzy and a person's own personal values are in conflict with their work.  This is when the employee is likely to take their talent to another employer.   Understanding this, as effective managers, not only do we need to clarify and model the company’s core values, but we need to understand and make room for the core values of the individuals on our team.

Performance Evaluations

Dr. Alyn points out that if organizational and personal core values are so important to an employee’s level of accountability and responsibility, these values should be the basis for performance evaluations.  Core values should be the foundation for how we evaluate ourselves first and our team members second.  Here are some examples.  If integrity is a key corporate value, then we could ask - Does this person keep commitments?  Make principal based ethical decisions?  Show consistency between stated values and daily behavior?   If dedication is a core value, we could ask - Is this person dedicated to improving personal and interpersonal skills?  If excellence is a core value, we could ask - Does this person strive towards excellence by encouraging positive change?  Improve excellence by taking input from others?  If honesty is one of their own personal values but they call in sick when they aren't sick, there's a discrepancy there.

The 360° Evaluation Model

Accountability starts at the top.  That's why Dr. Alyn recommends 360° evaluations for everyone in an organization or team, starting with its leadership.  Who has the most accurate assessment of someone's adherence to values and abilities as a manager: his boss?  his peers? his subordinates?  The answer is his subordinates, his peers and then his manager, in that order.   When someone who is treating people poorly knows that those people will be part of his evaluation process, his demeanor towards them will improve.

Even if 360° evaluations aren't implemented companywide, we as team leaders can do them on an informal basis.  And we should always go first.  Managers need to set this example of openness to examination and desire to improve. One positive example can influence significant positive change within our organizations.


Implementing 360° evaluations and building a value-driven rather than a policy-driven corporate culture are both key to a drastic improvement in accountability and responsibility.

Further Reading

Harvard Business Review:  Getting 360 Degree Reviews Right 360 Degree Reviews: Do It Yourself