Mutual Responsibility for Accountability


During a recent visit to our local YMCA, I watched a basketball game while “chugging along” on the elliptical machine.  My eyes and ears became fixated on one particular player – let’s call him Donny – and his coach.  Here’s my scouting report on Donny:

  • Loved to shoot – forced many shots.
  • Passed poorly and infrequently.
  • Minimal effort on defense.
  • Always first person down court for offense.
  • Pre-occupied when coach talked in huddle.
  • His team lost.

You get the picture.  It’s a great illustration of a critical component in High Performance – ACCOUNTABILITY.

Five critical actions drive higher accountability; and then there is mutual responsibility between leader and employee to execute each.

  1. Clarify expectations.  There must be a clear understanding of both desired performance and behavior.  Applicable policies, processes, and organizational values should also be highlighted.
  2. Define Success.  What do we need to achieve – by when – measured how – to be considered successful?  Establish milestones and distinguish activities from results.   
  3. Express Confidence.  Sincere confidence reinforces trust and that the right individuals were chosen.
  4. Check-In.  Hold periodic informal and formal “how are we doing” dialogues.  Make adjustments, if needed.
  5. Hold Dual Feedback.  Positively, give and accept feedback on what went well and what needs to improve.

High performance organizations distinguish themselves because they expect and reinforce mutual responsibility in accountability.  Each of the five critical actions highlighted above, has a complementary action by both leader and employee.  There is much less time and energy spent on “authority” holding someone lower in an organization accountable with punitive threats, warnings, or blame.  Those just create fear, resistance, push back, and strained relationships.  Instead, high performance cultures have more two-way, pro-activity ownership, open dialogue, mistake admitting and drive continuous improvement.  Their focus is on the end game – customer service and organizational performance.

Let’s go back to the YMCA basketball game to illustrate my point.  Donny’s coach missed clarifying expectations – like passing and playing defense.  Donny didn’t seek clarification and just kept shooting.  The coach and player had different definitions of success and how to get there – team vs. individual.  The timeouts and huddles lost effectiveness as a “check-in” because of lack of clarity, listening, and asking questions.  There was minimal feedback between player and coach during the game.  Ultimately the team lost.  Both Donny and his coach missed critical actions needed in accountability.

When goals are missed and problems arise, is accountability avoided or embraced by your team?  How often are the five critical accountability actions highlighted above – missed, doubled dribbled, or fouled out in your organization?  Accountability and mutual responsibility for executing it are critical cultural components in high performance organizations.  Are your leaders and employees skilled in this area to consistently “win”!

Republished with author’s permission from original post.



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