Building a Cohesive Leadership Team- Part 4: Embracing Accountability


In our previous blog, Part 3 we touched on the importance of achieving commitment in order to build a cohesive leadership team. The next step that builds upon that is embracing accountability.

Accountability some people are good at it and some people are bad at it? What is it?  From the interwebs, the definition reads The fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility. In simplest terms, it is being held responsible for something or to someone. But when it comes to leading and building a team the definition expands and goes deeper! Read further and you will understand what I mean.

Everyone on a team needs to be held accountable in order for the decisions and goals that are made, to be accomplished. If not, people may not follow the plan/decision and do something else that is in their best interest instead of the best interest of the team.

“Peer-to-peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on a team of a healthy organization.”

Most people think that the leader is supposed to be responsible for holding team members accountable but it isn’t efficient or practical.


For example, when a team member goes to the leader about a peer that is not following a committed plan/decision, this can create distractions and politics. Who wants to deal with office politics? I think no one.

If the team knows everyone is committed to the goal and they know they can hold each other accountable without the issue of defensives or backlash this allows team members to do just that.

This helps clear up confusion and keep each other on track.  Peer to peer accountability is the most effective way to keep each other on track.


The only way for a team to develop peer-to-peer accountability is for the leader to show that he/she is willing to hold people accountable themselves. If the leader is reluctant to do so themselves, then the rest of the team is not going to do their part. The more comfortable a leader is on holding the team accountable, the less likely he/she will be asked to do so. It works the other way around too. As the saying goes, “You must lead by example.”

Some leaders may think that since they aren’t afraid to fire someone, that means that they don’t have an accountability problem. This is not true. Firing someone is not a sign of accountability but is the last act of cowardness for a leader that doesn’t know how or isn’t willing to hold their team members accountable. Accountability is about having the courage to approach a team member about their deficiencies/weaknesses, stand in the moment and face their reaction. “To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.”

It is common for leaders to avoid holding team members accountable. Many leaders that struggle with this problem, try to convince themselves that their avoidance of accountability is a product of their kindness and that they don’t want to make their team feel bad. The reality is that they don’t want to make themselves feel bad. As a result, not holding someone accountable is an act of selfishness and it will prevent teams and companies from reaching their full potential.

So how do we take this advice and make it practical? Keep reading, I have an exercise for you!


Exercise to Build Team Accountability

This is a great exercise that can transform how team members go about holding each other accountable and to higher standards of performance.

1. Everyone writes down one thing that each other member (except themselves) does that makes the team better. Not their technical skills but the way that they behave when the team is together, that makes the team stronger.

2. Then do the same thing again but this time, focus on one aspect that hurts the team.

3. Starting with the leader, go around the room asking everyone to report on the leader’s one positive characteristic. Then allow the leader to provide his general, one-sentence reaction.

4. Go around the room again asking everyone to report on the leader’s negative characteristic and then allow the leader to provide his general reaction

5. Do this positive and negative characteristic/reaction process for all team members.

This exercise should take about 10 minutes per person and the total time will depend on the size of your team. Once completed, team members are usually in a state of mild amazement at the direct, honest and helpful feedback that was shared. The end result is the realization of the team as a whole, that holding each other accountable is a productive and survivable activity.

For a full dive on Embracing Accountability, you can find more information in Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage.

The next part of the series will be over Focusing On Results and if you would like to review the past principles you can check them out on our blog!

Happy Reading,

Julius Holt


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