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Mutual Accountability – What Makes Team Performance Happen

The power of peer accountability is often underutilized and is in fact the ultimate performance driver. Many organizations attempt to create a climate of accountability with robust performance management systems. The hope is that by building clarity and accountability into the rollout of enterprise strategies and team goals, the likelihood of achieving them will increase. Despite conscious efforts to launch new strategies with communication and goal cascading systems, most employees remain confused, uncertain about the concept of mutual accountability. Leaders often comment that the reason why a business isn’t growing is because it lacks accountability.

What Makes Team Performance Happen

Accountability – The challenge is that the word “accountability” may make you think of management, enforcement. There is a critical distinction between the difference of “holding someone accountable,” which has mainly negative and punitive connotations, and “creating accountability in others,” which is about being vested in the performance success of others. The distinction is critical, and the examples of being vested in each other’s success extend far beyond just business. Peer pressure, responsibility, and accountability, quite frankly, are much more efficient than any policy or system could achieve. The anxiety of not being accountable to a respected team member is a catalyst for motivating performance and building strong peer accountability. The mind-set and the actions that follow from being totally vested in someone else’s success will enable mutual success. In fact, creating a culture of accountability may have little to do with bosses. It is all about peers and the commitments, relationships, and support that they provide each other – and the intense desire not to let each other down. Here are 3 steps to consider:
1. Behaviours Are At The Heart of Peer Accountability – The power of accountability starts with behaviours. It seems that for many leaders it is easier to hold individuals accountable for results and ignore the behaviours. But since behaviours always precede results, it is critical to build new “behavioural ground rules” or “behavioural contracts” for peers to adopt to hold themselves and each other accountable. New strategies, goals, or initiatives can only be successful with new behaviours. One of the most important mantras for leaders driving performance is “What you’re waiting for will never come.” This means that leading performance in times of change can’t be intellectual for the leaders and emotional and behavioural for everyone else. Achievement and accountability are all about behaviour change. The most effective way to create new team-based behavioural ground rules is for the team to identify the current team (peer) behaviours that are inconsistent with the new strategies or goals, as well as the needed behaviours for the new direction.

2. Accountability Peer Feedback – One of the largest obstacles to achieving peer accountability is overcoming the hesitance to give each other immediate critical feedback. Sometimes people think it will risk their positive relationship, but ultimately, if there is a lack of long-term accountability, the positive relationships disappear anyway. When we establish the peer responsibility to call out behaviours that are exhibited and inconsistent with our new behavioural ground rules, we make it more of the expected routine for everyone. Not that it is comfortable to step into these conversations, but continuing to ignore constructive feedback will not breed a culture of accountability. It hurts the team and it hurts the teammates themselves. Accountability is a team game, and the desire not to let another team member down drives the tough and important behaviour changes that truly fuel the achievement of key business outcomes and goals.

3. Establish an Atmosphere of Trust – Trust is the social cement of high-performance teams. The leader must be the paragon of discretion and the swift, uncompromising enforcer of rules, norms, and values when a violation of trust occurs. The four key ingredients of trust are; Reliability, I do what I say I will do; Openness, I tell you the good news as well as the bad news; Straightforwardness, I say what I mean and mean what I say; Acceptance, I accept you as you are, not the way I want you to be. We either build or diminish trust every time we meet, you cannot be neutral in this regard.
Sources: Jim Hauden, CEO, Root Inc., Johan Cronje, Intégro Learning & Guttman Development Consulting