What is your team collectively accountable for?

Sounds like an easy question, right? Let me answer for you, "We have common goals -- our business results, metrics and key initiatives. After all, a team is stronger than the sum of the parts."

Sounds like a reasonable answer, but actions speak louder than words.

The Teamwork Audit

So if you wanted to evaluate whether your leadership team could deliver better results by working more effectively as a team and you were to ask me to conduct a teamwork audit (assessment) of your leadership team, one of my first focus areas I might want to learn about is if the team operates as follows:

Each leadership team member is a functional or business unit head that reports to and gets their direction/supervision from the team leader.

Regular team meetings are generally led by the team's leader and the meeting agenda is mostly about report outs by the team members to inform others what is happening in their function or unit.

When there is a leadership team member that doesn't deliver as promised for the team's common goals or is not following procedural/behavioral agreements set by the team, it's the team's leader who will have the straightforward talk with the leadership team member to set expectations for fulfilling their responsibilities to the team.

I wouldn't be surprised if this seems pretty typical to you as a leadership team member. After all, this is how most leadership teams tend to operate, right?

In my view, the team above doesn't sound like a team that is collectively accountable. If the leaders are expected to operate as a team and their results are expected to be stronger than the sum of the contributions by the individual functions/units, then the above would likely be working against the team being collectively accountable. If the team is collectively accountable, then leadership team members might have their own meeting (with or without the team's leader) to discuss progress on those areas where they are collectively accountable. If someone is not delivering as promised, then the team members would address that issue, not the team's leader.

The Baseball Analogy

As many of you know, I play in an age 40 and over recreational baseball league. I have always believed baseball is a better analogy for business than other sports as some responsibilities are individual in nature and some are teamwork/collaboration-based.

I sometimes play second base on my team. I have individual responsibilities when playing second base. A line drive hit to me -- it's my job to catch it. On a ground ball hit to me, my job is to field it and throw to first base and it's the first baseman's individual job to catch it. But a double play opportunity with the shortstop is different. We can positively impact the game by getting two outs on one batter, but only if we collaborate well. It is important that we are on the same page on proper positioning on the field, on delivering the ball in the best place so the other can receive it at the second base bag to not only get the runner out but to quickly be able to throw to first.

If we lose out on an opportunity for a double play, the shortstop and I are collectively accountable for that poor outcome. The shortstop and I have to work as a team and be responsible for practicing it and then delivering on the field. Our manager should hold us collectively accountable for those double play results.

What is Your Leadership Team's "Double Play?"

The following are examples of client business outcomes where the leadership team is/was collectively accountable:

  • End-to-end,cross-functional process improvement initiative -- The client wanted to improve their end-to-end process to reduce the turnaround time for their services from 3 days to 1 day. That type of improvement would take collaborative leadership and collective accountability as a leadership team.
  • Change in strategic focus in response to the market -- With the downturn in the oil and gas industry, capital expenditures have been reduced. The client sees a strategic opportunity to help customers become more efficient with the assets they have. The company already has a solution but the end-to-end coordination/alignment will have to improve -- from creating market awareness to selecting the target markets to having the right people in the right roles, to operational execution, etc. The leadership team will be collectively accountable for the effort this year.
  • Maximize sales per customer -- The client provides services to the transportation industry. Their operational leadership team consists primarily of business units that provide different types of services to the same groups of customers. Instead of each business unit dealing with customers on an individual basis, the leadership team set a goal to increase what the customer buys by coordinating the sales process (to increase the number of services the customer uses) and by improving the customer experience by making the service delivery process more seamless. That is an effort that requires collective accountability.

Being Collectively Accountable as a Leadership Team

There may be a number of practices or changes to the leadership team's "infrastructure" that will ensure the team is collectively accountable.

There is no formula for this as every team operates in their own unique way. Some of the practices or changes that the leadership team might consider could include clarifying functional vs. team goals, leadership team meetings for collective alignment/accountability reviews, parallel organization charts for team vs. function/unit accountabilities, team coordination roles for leadership team members and team-based incentives -- just to name a few.

Which of those might be a good next step for you to help your leadership team be collectively accountable?

* * *

Any team, from the front-lines to the executive leaders, can be collectively responsible to deliver on a project or initiative. But for cross-functional goals, the leadership team needs to provide collaborative leadership and be collectively accountable.

Holding individuals accountable is difficult for many leaders. Being collectively accountable can be even more challenging because everyone needs to be on the same page. Just listen to Clementine Paddleford, "Never grow a wishbone...where your backbone ought to be."

Mike Goodfriend is a Teamwork Engineer, Leadership Coach, and Meeting Facilitator. Since 1989, Goodfriend & Associates has been helping leaders and leadership teams increase their strategic advantage through achieving higher levels of competitive advantage, teamwork/alignment, leadership competency and excellence/customer satisfaction. Mike Goodfriend can be reached at 713-789-6840 or via email at mikeg@goodfriendconsulting.com.

© Goodfriend & Associates, Inc., 2016

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"Mike, thanks for sharing, some good learnings and enjoyed the correlation. I will have to use this on my British colleagues."

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  A clever way to explain and consider the Birkman Method. I appreciate you sending this to me!

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