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Giving up accountability

Team conceptYou don’t have to look far to find proof of the stunning success of teams within organizations. Teams are one of the most effective responses to today’s business challenges. Challenges posed by customer service, quality, continuous improvement and all of the other hot topics that separate today’s market winners from the companies they leave in the dust. 

In pursuit of this competitive advantage, leaders commonly remind employees that there is no “I” in Team. “We” becomes the mantra. 

Leaders beware! There are risks.

The word “we” means nothing to you. It means nothing to any of us.

For organizations to be successful, each individual must see him/herself as accountable for a final result. Even in the case of team goals, each individual must understand and carry out their specific role and responsibilities. Giving up accountability to “the team” sends a powerful message to our subconscious minds to look for excuses rather than to take actions that will move us closer to the goal.

Most sports teams imprint the goal of “we will win”. The most successful sports teams know that they can’t stop there. They take it one step further. They have each individual member of the team imprint the specific role they are accountable for as part of the team goal.

Consider this familiar example:

Why does one parent sleep through a baby’s cry in the middle of the night while the other parent needs only to hear a change in the breathing of the child to be on red alert? 

When parents bring their newborn baby home, both are on heightened alert for anything that may represent a threat to the infant. After a few days pass, the task typically falls to one parent who most consistently rushes to the child’s side at the slightest peep from the little one.

The other parent remains peaceful in deep sleep. Imagine the surprise of the well-rested parent who discovers in the morning that their cranky, sleep-deprived partner was up five times during the night with the child.

None of us realize that we block sounds from our peaceful sleep every night (furnace or air conditioner coming on, TV set blaring, music from next door, siren down the street). We don’t hear the many sounds that occur in our homes every night. 

Why does one parent block the baby’s cry and the other doesn’t? Isn’t the baby valuable to both parents? 

Of course, the child is important to both parents. It isn’t a question of buying into the value of the new life. It is because one parent has given up accountability. One parent knows the other will get up allowing his or her subconscious to rest soundly in the knowledge that “the parenting team” has it handled.

Teams in the workplace

A similar phenomenon happens in the workplace. Every team has one or two individual(s) who everyone knows “she will” or “he will”.  The comfort of that knowledge allows other members of the team to rest their creativity, their talents and their awareness.

Giving up accountability causes us to miss a lot of opportunities and warning signs that will take us more speedily to the achievement of our goals.

A wake-up call for leaders

The next time you are leading a team that sets a team goal, take the extra step to make sure everyone knows what their specific roles and responsibilities are. There may not be an “I” in Team but teams are made up of individuals and each individual needs to be accountable for their own contributions.  

To be fully accountable means we need to know what is expected of us. In this way, we engage both our conscious and subconscious creative genius.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

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Website: www.tero.com

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