Setting A Rhythm of Accountability

In our previous post, we talked about getting your team’s commitment to change and overcoming their resistance to it. But getting everyone’s commitment it is not enough, you must also keep everyone’s focus on that commitment. So once leadership has each team member on board with change, how can everyone be held accountable? It’s by setting a rhythm of team accountability.

As a former boss and mentor used to say, “What’s paid attention to, gets paid attention to.” Meaning of course that what we pay attention to as leaders is what our teams focus on as well.


How Can Leaders Keep Everyone Accountable?

This is absolutely where I see a lot of organizations get off track. It is one of the places you can start making progress right away and where you can have one of the biggest impacts. The behaviors that are necessary to make and sustain the change must become habit.

Hence leadership must follow-up and follow through – otherwise there is no accountability. And once teams realize they will be held accountable, they will begin to change behaviors. As a bonus, they will begin to hold each other accountable. The result is a high-performance culture.


But how will you know if you are on the right track? How will you measure progress?


The Four Disciplines of Execution by McChesney, Covey and Huling outlines three ways to keep teams accountable:

  • Limit the number of priorities you are focused on at any one time
  • Monitor and share dashboard of metrics (leading and lagging)
  • Document and report progress on commitments/agreed to actions


1. Focus on a limited number of priorities

Research in the book finds that if a team focuses on one to three priorities, they are likely to achieve all three with excellence.

But If they are focused on 4 to 10, they are likely to achieve only two with excellence. And if they have more than 10 priorities, they are likely to achieve none with excellence.


2. Monitor metrics

McChesney, Covey and Huling contend that people and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win.

Therefore, it is important that you measure and track results, including both leading and lagging indicators. I think of lagging indicators as outcome goals and leading indicators as activity goals. We generally have very little direct control over lagging indicators. They are the outcome of the actions we take – the leading indicators.

For example, sales revenue is a lagging measure. Sales result from specific actions that are taken — such as number of calls made, number of meetings with prospects, and number of proposals submitted (leading measures). Leading measure are predictors of lagging measures. If all you are measuring are lagging indicators, then by the time you realize you are off course, it is too late.


3. Meet with teams and report progress

According to the Four Disciplines of Execution, great performers thrive in a culture of accountability that is frequent, positive, and self-directed. The authors recommend each team engages in a simple weekly process that highlights successes, analyzes failures, and course-corrects as necessary, creating the ultimate performance-management system.

Leaders should hold a weekly meeting where the metrics around leading and lagging indicators are shared. Most importantly, there needs to be honest discussion around where the team is off course and what needs to be done to get back on track.

I recommend sharing metrics both for the week and year-to-date and/or month-to-date in a visual format. When teams can visually see progress, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and stay motivated to keep performance high.


How Much Time Will It Take to Get into the Rhythm of Team Accountability?

The most frequent complaint I hear from leaders about implementing this sixth step’s outlines above is, “It takes too much time.” My response is, “How much time is a lack of accountability taking you?”

Have you ever taken a short-cut when you are driving that takes you twice as long as going the “long” way would have?


The truth is: It is more about discipline than time!


Are you tired of rework taking time away from progress, and a lack of accountability for team members’ performances? Get in touch with me here to see how I can help leadership get teams on board with change and into a rhythm of team accountability.


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