In a recent coaching call with an IT executive, I was hearing a common refrain – the organization in which he works encourages a highly collaborative, professional teaming, highly inclusive decision-making culture. Yet, when the big issues arise, and tough decisions are needed or major projects are on the line, the senior leaders revert to their hierarchical, chain of command, exclusive decision-making approach. This has created a growing sense of frustration and dissolution among his team, and many other teams across the organization.
I say this is a common conversation because many highly technical and professional workforces are embracing the concept of a goodness culture, and yet their internal policies, procedures, and practices are still more aligned with a traditional culture.
So, how do you make the shift to a goodness culture in meaningful and sustainable ways? It starts by getting good at building accountability from shared commitments. Shared commitments are those things that define how a team thrives and wins together. There are three steps to strengthening shared commitments within your team.
- Define what good looks like. When team members have differing views of what success looks like, they all work toward their own outcomes, rather than team outcomes. When negotiating shared commitments, develop the qualitative and quantitative metrics the team will use to measure success. Qualitative metrics are success factors—items that describe “how” the team will work together and narratively outline successful outcomes. Quantitative metrics are outlined in a scorecard—key numbers, dates, and quantities of production measures to track progress toward successful outcomes. Blending qualitative and quantitative metrics ensures team members can clearly see in what ways the team is winning together and seek accountability to correct areas in which they are not making progress.
- Clarify team member expectations. Take time to establish and confirm clear roles and responsibilities. Discuss the goals and metrics you are working to achieve and define the responsibilities that go with achieving those goals, including the critical hand-offs that are necessary between team members. Too often, teams rely on their job titles, or job descriptions, and assume everyone knows “who” is doing “what” things on a team. This is typically not as clear as you might expect, so things get missed, dropped, or not completed. Creating shared commitments involves the purposeful step of negotiating expectations, decision making standards, and considering obstacles the team may need to overcome to reach its goal. The clarity of roles and responsibilities, along with the negotiation of shared expectations, creates the foundation for seeking accountability from shared commitments.
- Embrace healthy tension. One of the best ways to seek accountability is to extend nagging rights, with zero cost of candor, to the rest of the team. Rather than seeking harmony, shared commitments accountability means the team objectively reviews progress toward the qualitative and quantitative metrics without being defensive or argumentative. Instead, each team member acknowledges where things are on or off track in achieving the desired outcomes. Healthy tension allows for candid and direct discussion about progress, while giving space for team members to show appreciation, extend grace, and offer support to one another in achieving the team outcomes. In other words, each team member seeks accountability around the shared commitments to ensure the team thrives and wins together.
By forming accountability from shared commitments, you involve the team, are clear about the team direction, and make it an imperative to measure performance toward your goals. It becomes less about “holding people accountable” and more about creating a “seeks accountability” mindset based on shared commitments. Once team members are openly sharing accountability for delivering results, it becomes easier for senior leaders to distribute power and embrace a collaborative teams of teams approach over the traditional hierarchical approach.
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