Unapologetic Accountability: Effective Teamwork and Collaboration

accountable_21228904I don’t recall exactly where I read this:

Teamwork is a worthy goal. And there is no disputing that it is uniquely powerful – enabling groups of people to achieve more collectively than they could have ever imagined doing apart. However, the demands of real teamwork cannot be underestimated.

On high performance teams, members do not need, nor do they expect anyone to remind them of anything. Be it completing a code review, showing up (on time) for a meeting, finishing a “today” from the morning stand up, or removing an impediment. There is no lack of clarity about what they have committed to do or what their collective goals are. Each individual demonstrates unapologetic accountability. (See “Say, mean, do.”)

There is no “I/We can’t” – just “How can I/we…”


But don’t let the “simplicity” of unapologetic accountability conceal the difficulty of making it a reality.

External influences, human nature, bad habits and less than perfect behavior patterns invariably make an appearance. Someone somewhere along the line, someone will make a choice that doesn’t contribute to the likelihood of success for the team. Or that is not in the best interest of the customer – which is equivalent: because without the customer, there will soon be no company, and hence no team… These choices reflect Real Issues – which not everyone on the team wants to deal with.

Real Issues

How does a team member know when they have a Real Issue to deal with?

Here’s a clue: Anything that just thinking about talking about with a fellow team mate causes you to feel anxious or queasy is almost certainly a Real Issue.

Fortunately, high performance teams have (at least a few) members that are comfortable dealing with this situation. These individuals do not resort to ignoring, pairing, or complaining to the “boss” – as these behaviors are not only destructive to the morale of the team, they allow readily addressable real issues to not only live longer than should be allowed, but potentially to grow and fester. When pairing is attempted, these individuals will respond with, “What did he/she say when you talked to them about it…?”

Stepping Forward

Maslow wrote: “In any given moment, we have two options: To step forward into growth or to step back into safety”

If you “dropped the ball” or think that a teammate did, raise it up to the attention of the team. Be direct, specific and timely as possible. (The daily stand-up is a fine place to broach the subject – and then have a side bar or after meeting).

What will you choose? Will you pass up the next opportunity to have a conversation about a Real Issue?


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