Most of us have good intentions when we take on a task or agree to a deadline, there may just be a few pieces missing that make it easy to drop the ball. In this week’s Lucrative Lookback, we’ll dive into exactly what it takes to create a team where people show up and do what they say they’ll do. Imagine a world with more of that!
There are two types of team experiences.
We’ve all been on teams where one or two people were less than reliable. Regardless of individual performance, it seems almost inevitable that, for some teams, things just won’t get done on time. On the flip side, most of us have been on teams that have all their ducks in a row. Things are smooth, people get their stuff done, and conflict is at a minimum. What is it about these experiences that make them so much more effective?
Team cultures of accountability are the game changer.
In most cases, a team culture of accountability isn’t something we recognize purposefully. It’s something we often attribute to character, if we acknowledge it at all. By that, I mean we think a team is “good” because the organization it’s apart of is just a great company, or because the people in the group have great work ethics. Both of those things may be true, there is just way more to it than we consciously realize.
It’s important to understand exactly how to create team cultures of accountability so the experience is repeatable, on purpose.
Everything Trybal practices and preaches begins and ends with that idea: repeatable, on purpose. By “accident” is great for discovery, but not so much for sustainability.
Creating a culture of accountability.
Trybal is a great example of a team that absolutely REQUIRES accountability to function at all. We are a virtual office, which is great for what we do; we have Tryb members all over who are mobile and easily accessible to clients. It’s the perfect business model for what we do. It also presents some unique challenges when we work on team projects, which, by the way, is pretty much everything we do!
Considering the environment, we can immediately eliminate the following accountability tactics we know teams use:
- Daily meetings (as a group, or subsets)
- Visualization board (workflow front & center everyday)
- Spot checking (physically seeing if someone is at work)
- Time clocks
In order for this team to work, we have to TRUST that each Tryb member will do their part, on time, and when they can’t, they communicate that in a timely manner. Sounds simple in theory, but without a culture of accountability, it would be really easy for me to go off to the beach on a nice day and just claim “technical difficulties” for my deliverable that day. Not to mention working within walking distance of your bed is more tempting than you can imagine.
Accountability is the biggest reason the Trybal team is successful.
How did we create and sustain our organizational culture of accountability?
1. Strong, simple to understand values
If you visit our about page, you’ll see we have 6 values we have made a part of our DNA. More importantly, you’ll see we have defined behaviors that demonstrate each value. The behaviors are extremely important in ensuring we all understand the expectations, and we know what it looks like tangibly. In our case, company and team values are the same; that may not be the case for your team if you feel the company values are too broad. Use them as a starting point and outline behaviors the team agrees should be the foundation for success.
2. Commitment to clear, concise & kind communication
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a big advantage on this one, given what we do! We constantly lean on our communication tool, Crucial Conversations, to help us have high stakes conversations effectively. This step means:
- Clear expectations and deadlines
- High level transparency from leadership down
- Having crucial conversations in a timely manner
- Resetting expectations should something change, ASAP (deadline, workload commitment, etc.)
- Holding team members to their word, kindly (no blame game here!)
- Asking the cost of additional requests/workload
- Pointing out when an action or communication is inconsistent with our values (again, kindly)
- Encourage others to provide feedback
- Provide feedback through inquiry (don’t make assumptions, seek facts)
- Expressing gratitude regularly, especially when someone cares enough to have the tough conversation
- Providing potential solutions, or a willingness to help, when pointing out problems
- Abiding by the Crucial Conversations model
3. Responsibilities, not defined roles or titles
This one is an important piece of the puzzle, but can’t be taken out of this context. Everyone is given responsibilities, a part of the project that their name goes on and they must see to completion. These are not defined roles, which means should something happen for an reason, the excuse “It’s not my job” has no meaning. That does not mean we ignore skill level, experience etc., it just means we aren’t locking someone to tasks by title. Additionally, the entire team is responsible for picking up any slack left by another team member.
4. Align people based on their strengths
This stems directly from #3; if we have responsibilities or niches, rather than defined roles, it’s a lot easier to have people doing what they’re great at most of the time. Chances are, if someone is working in their sweet spot, they’ll actually want to get the work done and show the team just how awesome they are at what they do. It feels good to them, and it makes the team look good. This also encourages people to collaborate, which oddly enough tends to be lacking on teams. It also encourages diversity of talent; instead of making people fit into a predefined mold, you build the team based on the strengths of the awesome people you have.
We based our values on the book, The Four Agreements. Pick up a copy today!
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)
The intricacies of accountability.
The list I have provided here is very high-level. Consider this the framework to the puzzle of how to create team cultures of accountability. We also make sure when we hire, we are selecting people who are performing in their current or previous roles, and identify with/align to our values!
I should also leave you with this disclaimer:
The best teams put in the work to be the best.
As much as we all love instant gratification, building and sustaining anything worthwhile takes work. While anyone can hand you a toolkit and claim it will fix your problems, it’s not magical; you have to actually do the work and use the tools!