Team accountability helps people follow through on their commitments and take responsibility for an action, idea, goal, or piece of work.

Being accountable means people doing what they say they are going to do.

Holding yourself and each other to account is a core part of team working.

It is vital for making sure that things actually get done.

A strong team will support each other to question whether they have done what was required, and help them see if they haven’t in a positive and meaningful way. 

Patrick Lencioni in his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team talks about ‘avoidance of accountability‘ as one of those five dysfunctions. It is something that slows down a team and gets in the way of effective working.

He talks about avoidance of accountability as “the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behaviour”.

The focus is not so much on whether you have ticked something off a ‘to do’ list or not. Instead, it’s about whether your team is strong enough to challenge when something hasn’t been done. Willing to have often uncomfortable conversations to draw attention to the issue in a positive way.

group communication

Why is team accountability so important?

Accountability and commitment go hand in hand.

If a team member weaves around the thing they are supposed to be doing because it’s too hard, or something got in the way, or just because they didn’t get around to it, there is usually an impact felt across the team. If someone is not delivering on their actions, it is important to acknowledge it and work out what is going wrong before a small ripple becomes a big wave.

Things happen, tasks can end up taking longer than expected and sometimes capacity just won’t allow it.

Being honest when help is needed, or when a deadline is not going to be achieved, is part of what makes the whole team tick and able to work collaboratively.

How can you build accountability into your team?

First off, it’s important to involve team members in the planning process. To allow them to take ownership of their roles and tasks in the team and to make sure there is buy-in to the work that needs to happen.

Ensure there is clarity of task – who is doing what? People need to be absolutely clear on their place in the team  but rather than inform them of their tasks, invite them to state which bits of the plan they are going to do, or take responsibility for. This will help them care and if they care they are more likely to ge it done. .

Help your team by giving them a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve. The shared sense of direction that you may have may not be obvious. Work with your team members to highlight the connections between different work-streams so it is more obvious what you are aiming to achieve, and how.

Ask team members to verbalise what they are going to do, and write it down. When each person spells out what they are going to do, it demonstrate their commitment. It also gives others the opportunity to ask questions which can help clarify precisely what this commitment is. It also avoids any cross overs and duplication of effort well before anybody starts working. 

Let people know that they are valued and that their contribution to the team is critical. 

Who, what, where, when why?


In addition, it is important to foster a culture of trust whereby team members can be honest and open with each other and you.

Ensuring your team members feel comfortable pointing out to each other that something hasn’t been done in a constructive way is a big part of this. As is creating an environment of building up rather than tearing each other down.

Building trust takes time, but start by helping your team members to get to know each other, developing those relationships.

Let your team members know that it’s okay to say when a task is no longer possible, or that they aren’t going to be able to complete it.

Ensure there is ample opportunity to do so even outside of those all important check ins. If they can ‘own up’ to a problem immediately, someone else will be able to pick it up, or the plan can be altered before it is too late. Saving you, and your team, time, effort and ultimately money.

Buddy up

Following any kind of planning session, how about creating accountability partners? Team members can buddy up, let each other know their plans, and check in at the start and end of the week. This will help keep team member on track and provide them with a sounding board for minor questions etc.

Accountability is critical to the success of any group or business. Taking steps to build it into your team before problems arise will ensure a more productive team and an infinitely more rewarding working environment.

Bringing the team together

A well planned, expertly executed team away day has the potential to bring your team together. It will build trust and open channels of communication in a way that will ensure your team gets stuff done. To find out more, get in touch and we can begin to plan something!

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