Twenty years ago, this article was first published in the Harvard Business Review, The Discipline of Teams. Authored by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, the article remains a seminal document with respect to the functioning of the most successful teams.
Within this work are many key insights and observations on the role of mutual accountability, and how top teams develop this fundamental characteristic. From our observation in coaching premiere financial advisory teams, mutual accountability is one of the key distinguishing points that separate the outstanding teams from everyone else.
I have excerpted some of the article’s key points regarding mutual accountability:
- No group ever becomes a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team.
- Think, for example, about the subtle but critical difference between “the boss holds me accountable” and “we hold ourselves accountable.” The first case can lead to the second, but without the second, there can be no team.
- At the core, team accountability is about the sincere promises we make to ourselves and others, promises that underpin two critical aspects of effective teams: commitment and trust.
- Mutual accountability cannot be coerced any more than people can be made to trust one another. But when a team shares a common purpose, goals and approach, mutual accountability grows as a natural counterpart.
- When people work together toward a common objective, trust and commitment follow. Consequently, teams enjoying a common purpose and approach inevitably hold themselves responsible, both as individuals and as a team, for the team’s performance.
What we have observed at ClientWise is that getting a group of financial advisors with various individual goals to abide by a common set of standards and rules can be one of the toughest tasks for teams to tackle. While team members may pledge their commitment in their words, it is another thing to show it in their actions. Often what is said is the opposite of what is actually done.
Teams that have trouble walking the talk have a difficult time reaching their full potential. Without mutual accountability, the team can sabotage itself due to jealousies, resentments, and conflicts. A selfishness arises within the team that corrodes the effectiveness of the team as a whole
However, when teammates are accountable to each other something special happens within the team. Team members begin to respect and trust each other. This bond based on mutual respect and trust is key to helping the team realize its full potential. Creating and maintaining this type of chemistry is one of the most challenging and important goals for the team to aspire towards.
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