Take a moment and reflect on a successful team you have been a part of and how it performed so well. Was accountability one of the key components to the team’s overall performance?
Dee Ann Turner in her book Bet on Talent discusses character, competency, chemistry, calling, and community when selecting talent and building the culture of a team or organization. There is also an underlying theme of accountability that anchors each of those components for high-performing teams. It takes intentionally consistent self– and team– accountability to achieve significance as a team.
Success on a team is about the individual. A team’s significance is about the team and its impact with others and their journeys!
Exercising and practicing a high degree of accountability is a great way to impact a team’s significance. Patrick Lencioni places it second from the top of his Five Behaviors Model for Teams.
The effectiveness, productiveness, and profitability of servant leadership, servant teamsmanship, and servant followership can be attributed to the fact that they are fair, firm, and accountable. Servant–minded teams and team members will hold one another accountable to their word and their part on the team.
1. Model the Accountability You Desire
Select a mindset of go first, go often, and be consistent! If we want accountability, we have to start by asking, “Are we accountable?” Beginning with the person in the mirror is the best place to start exercising accountability. In the book Team Work, Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick discuss key principles of personal excellence and sacrificial service. Learning to model these principles would be extremely helpful in building our credibility in holding others accountable.
Is our yes, yes? Is our no, no? When our team members hear us speak or commit to tasks, do they believe we will deliver when we say we will? Is there evidence to support our claim? When we model being accountable it helps our efforts to then hold others accountable.
“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”
– Matthew 5:37 NKJV
As the Operations Officer for the Naval Special Warfare Center’s Advanced Training Command, my commanding officer had three key characteristics he was seeking from his leadership team: accuracy, timeliness, and follow through! Each of these goes a long way at ensuring accountability is in play.
2. Manage Your Accountability Expectations
One challenge in holding others accountable may be our expectations. Have we taken the intentional effort to ensure they are realistic, not too optimistic, and grounded in data, rather than feelings? Often times accountability is beyond our grasp because of a lack of clarity in reality. How clear, concise, and compelling are we when we communicate the expectation in the beginning?
Communication is a three-part process. The key components of transmission, reception, and understanding have to be present if successful communication is to occur. If any of the three components are not clear then communication fails.
- If something is not clearly delivered or transmitted, then it is unlikely it can be received and understood.
- If a message is transmitted well, but not received well, then it is unlikely it will be understood and communication fails.
- If a message is transmitted and received well it is more likely that it will be understood, but not a guarantee.
Holding others accountable can be difficult due to how it feels for all involved. Most people avoid confrontation for harmony only to have the situation get worse. The one being held accountable may find being held accountable awkward or sense a need to defend and justify their actions. Avoiding holding others accountable only teaches everyone they don’t have to be. I’ve written previously about how to have healthy conflict because it’s okay to disagree and is expected.
However, holding others accountable is not a license to be contrary to any aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit. In fact, the Fruit of the Spirit is a great self-check prior to, during, and after we hold the one in the mirror and others accountable. The opposite of any one of these aspects would make the attempt of accountability less effective.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
I can remember a serving of wisdom passed on to me from a good friend a few years ahead of me in life. He said, “Chris, once you become loud or yell, you are wrong and lose the ability to speak into others.” That has stayed with me for quite some time. How can we effectively hold others accountable if our yelling or lack of self-control has caused them to tune us out?
3. Consistently Hold Others Accountable
Consistently holding others accountable in light of the Fruit of the Spirit as servant leaders and servant teammates will also lend itself to building our credibility to do so. In the military, I was taught to come into a new position abnormally firm and strong because it was easier to loosen the reigns than it was to pull people back in. I have since come to see how short-sighted that thinking was.
Establishing a fair, firm, and accountable model for others to see and emulate is a much more effective approach as a leader, as a teammate, and as a follower!
Get Started Today
Accountability with the one in the mirror or others takes intentionality. We need to be willing to go first, go often, and be consistent. Our personal accuracy, timeliness, and follow-through will go a long way towards ensuring we model accountability more effectively. Finally, servant leadership works when we are fair, firm, and accountable!
What are a couple of micro adjustments you can make to have a macro impact on your ability to hold others accountable?