Steps to building a successful team: Part 4

The fourth step: embracing accountability.

Accoutablity is a word that we hear so often in the news, by our employeers, in various level of government and even in our own personal lives. We are held accountable for what we write, prodcudce, say, what time we arrive to work and for the decisions that we make on a daily basis. The concept of accountability is also applied to team work and how we choose to interact with each member.

According to Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, who has worked with many organizations to provide training in the area of executive team development and organizational health, there are five dysfunctions of a team, as described in his book, Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Commitment
  • Embracing accountability-the dislike of letting a peer or colleague down as a motivation to be a team player
  • inattention to results

The question remains: who holds us accountable? There are so many different influences in our lives, but as it relates to teamwork our peers tend to be those who motive us to be a contributing team member. The leader of the team has a responsibility to hold everyone on the team accountable, but it shouldn’t always be the leader’s responsilibity to do so. It is the peer-to-peer accountability, and should become part of the team culture. Lencioni states that, “the key to making it stick is the willingness of the team leader to do something called, ‘entering the danger’ whenever someone needs to be called on their behavior or performance”. This means the leader must be willing to step into a difficult situation and remind the team members of their responsibility.

A team activity that Lencioni suggests to include the Team Effectiveness Exercise, an hour-long activity for teams that have built trust, have worked together for more thatn two to three months and have formed observation-based opionis of one another.:

  • At a meeting, have everyone on a team write down their answer these two questions about every person on the team, “what is the single most important behavioral characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that contributes to the strength of our team” and “what is the sinlge most important behavioral characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that can sometimes derail the team?”
  • The leader goes first by having all the team members report their postivie quality of the leader.
  • Wheneveryone is done the leader is able to share their general reaction.
  • Then go around the room.
  • The goals have been achieved:
    • Team members are able to hear positive feedback from their colleagues
    • Learn as a team what they are to do to improve as a team

Since each of these behaviors are interrelated, it is important to work on them together as opposed to approaching each issue in a silo. Patrick Lencioni has developed guidelines that may assist in you in developing cohesiveness in your organizational team.

Please stay tuned for the next article on Embracing Accountability. To learn more about Government and Public Policy and the Leadership and Community Engagement programs offered through Michigan State University Extension, please contact Emily Proctor, Tribal Extension educator with questions or comments at (231)-439-8927 or

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