How Accountability Helps Teams Achieve Better Results

How Accountability Helps Teams Achieve Better Results image DATE: July 14, 2022

As soon as the clock switched from 8:29 to 8:30 pm at our house last night, my husband made a celebratory announcement to all the kids in the living room, “It’s bedtime!” As a parent to four small kids, he was happy it was their bedtime because it meant that he was soon going to have a whole entire hour or so of adult time before he went to bed. He may pull out the candy stash, watch a show, read a book, or just sit in total silence. With so many people in one house, an hour to yourself is a treasure! Regardless, the kids didn’t share in his excitement about his bedtime declaration.

Begrudgingly, our two sons mustered all the energy they had in their five and eight-year-old bodies to pull themselves up off the couch. Each came over and gave Joe and me a hug that really only consisted of them leaning their body onto ours…as if not wrapping their arms around us was the implied discontent regarding our decision to put them to bed. In their young minds, putting them to bed is just about the worst decision we could make for them as their parents, right?! You’d think after years of doing this every single night they would figure out that going to sleep is actually not that bad. But, they haven’t yet. We hugged the boys, prayed for them, and off to bed they went. 

(Side note: At what age does an early bedtime become a privilege and not a punishment? I am 33 and the idea of actually being able to go to bed for the night at 8:30 sounds amazing!)

While this was going down, our eldest daughter was across the room sitting quietly as tears welled up in her eyes. Once the boys were out of the room she immediately ran over to me and whispered, “Dad said I could stay up until 9:00 and it’s only 8:30.” She then stared me directly in the eyes as if to plead, “Can you do something to help me here?!”  I could hear the absolute desperation in her whispers and see it on her red splotchy face. 

Positive Accountability

I looked back at my daughter and whispered in her ear, “Maybe dad needs a little reminder of who he is and how he wants you to see him. Go respectfully say to him that you know it’s important for him to be a man of his word. Remind him that he told you earlier in the day that you could stay up until 9:00. We will see how he responds.”

Let me be clear, I do not believe in manipulation. Manipulation consists of winners and losers. Instead, I believe in the power of understanding what motivates people and intentionally creating win-win moments.

Willow was initially unsure about bringing this up to her dad. However, she did as I suggested because she knows that in our family we have the other’s best interest always in mind. As she began speaking to Joe, he quickly realized that she had likely been counseled on what to say. He cut his eyes at me and smirked. 

The reality is that Joe is in fact a man of his word. He has been for the 18+ years I have known him. This is a very important value for our entire family in all aspects of our life. It’s how we earn trust and respect from everyone…our family, our friends, our colleagues, and even from ourselves individually. 

In a world that can be so crazy, it’s only human nature that we get off track. We lose focus. Our stress, frustration, anxiety or excitement can cloud our judgment. Sometimes we all need reminders of who we are and who we want to be. We need those around us to help keep us accountable…not only for their benefit, but equally for our own.

Accountability Affects Decision-Making

After Joe was simply, respectfully reminded of who he is, who he has said he wants to be, it was impossible for him to do anything other than to keep his word. He kept his word and chose to allow Willow to stay up for thirty more minutes. She was happy. Joe on the other hand, honestly, wasn’t ecstatic in the moment. However, he was confident he made the right decision. He stayed true to our family values. We reinforced our family culture of respect and accountability that night, especially for Willow who is at such a formative age.

As someone who has dedicated my life to developing leaders, teams, and organizations, my next natural question to you today is this: have you made your values so clear that the people around you (your team, your family, your friends) know them by heart? Furthermore, have you created a culture or environment where people respectfully hold one another accountable so that everyone is better because of it? 

Create Your Culture

Contrary to popular headlines, your organization’s culture is not so much built on raises, trips, time off, flexibility, free food, game rooms, celebrations, and more. Instead, organizational culture is either built or destroyed in the small moments we have with those on our team. It’s how we communicate decisions, respond to other’s emotions, whether we correctly realize and meet the needs of those around us, and so on. Culture is built or destroyed in the everyday moments between employees, not the perks or benefits the organization offers. Additionally, it is the culture of your organization that will increase employee retention and performance!

Regarding your team’s culture, here are a few brief points for consideration today:

1 — If I were to have a conversation with your employees this afternoon and ask if they understand exactly how people should treat one another in different scenarios in your organization, can you confidently count on them to answer the way you’d like?

2 — Does your team know your values by heart? Even more important, do those values demonstrate how you should interact with one another on a daily basis?

Imagine what success could be realized if your values were clearer and positive accountability was a way of life among your team. Might you all get off track less? Could you and your team achieve goals faster? It’s definitely possible!

Although, it will take you making the choice to define your values correctly and clearly so that they’re practical, and realistic for who you expect from your team on a day-in and day-out basis. You’ll also have to intentionally choose transparency and vulnerability. You must make the decision to put your pride aside. This is not easy for everyone, but it is necessary for effective, positive accountability.  

When confronted with a disconnect, just as Joe was that night, it would have been easy to rest on your authority and squash the issue. But, would that have served him and his “organization” well? No. It would have been a temporary fix that only benefited him for a brief moment. The repurcussions wouldn’t be far behind.

Leaders must focus our minds on the big goal. Joe could have easily been frustrated with Willow and me because he wanted more alone time. Instead, he chose to focus on the big goal which was and is to maintain his integrity, earn trust from his daughter, and reinforce our culture.

It is my hope today that as you interact with your team at work, or even your family and friends outside of work, that you will remember who you are, who you want to be, and that you’ll be surrounded by people who positively hold you accountable to help you all become more successful!

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alyson van hooser

About The Author:

Alyson Van Hooser, Leadership Keynote Speaker, Trainer on Millennials, Gen Z & Women in Business With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn.

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