Be a Great Team Leader: 4 Views on Accountability

The two most popular pages on our website tell an interesting story about organizational needs and dynamics.

1. How to prepare for difficult conversations

2. Creating high functioning teams 

Teams, both functional and cross-functional, are the engines that drive most organizations. They are microcosms of how we collectively work together to achieve great things.

Where most teams struggle is accountability which is defined as holding each other accountable. That includes peer-to-peer accountability, not just accountability of an individual team member to the team leader. It’s about getting aligned – in alignment – with each other; coordinating who is doing what, when, why, and how in order to achieve some significant goal(s) in a determined period of time. Sounds so simple.

What gets in the way? Habits condoned by the organization. In your organization, do you have:

  •   Organizational silos focused exclusively on their own work and success?
  •   Performance reviews that emphasize individual over collective results?
  •   A culture that encourages politeness over directness?

What other obstacles exist?  

  •   Team leaders not role modeling holding others accountable 
  •   Lack of clarity and lack of directness.
  •   Team agreements, usually unstated, that allow for behavior that derails the team

When we “put up with” behavior that limits team success, for whatever reason, we are agreeing to be non-accountable. Which is why our form on preparing for a tough conversation and the material on teams have been downloaded hundreds of times.

In fact, when we ask clients what type of tough conversation they are preparing for, more times than not, it is with someone on their team. And based on research by Patrick Lencioni, 2/3 of 12,000 teams completing the team profile find that their lowest scores of the 5 areas (Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results) is: Accountability! Why is that? Because we don’t speak up when we believe someone is not doing the work. It’s a vicious cycle.


So, let’s go upstream and see if we can help your team and your organization put into place some practical elements that will help teams share the responsibility for each other, and in the process, help your organization build the culture that engages and sustains with clear communication and appropriate support. 

Let’s use the DiSC profile to help us take a new view on accountability and shift the old habits to new practices on your team. Regardless of your natural work style, learn to borrow from other styles when the situation calls for it. Accountability comes in many shapes and forms. Learn to recognize the approach you need in the moment to build a team that thrives. 


View #1:  Borrow from the “D”s drive for results

D’s are direct, results oriented, have a sense of urgency and while they can be blunt and impatient, they are also the drivers on the team who push for the next step that needs to be taken. On your team, apply a “D” mindset to the most pressing issues your team is grappling with today: 

  • What needs to be said (avoid the blunt and impatient part, go for clarity with facts and substance)? 
  • What needs to be clarified: goals, milestones, roles?
  • What needs to happen right now, today, in order to maintain positive momentum?

View #2: Engage others as an “I” would

“I” styles want to collaborate on the path to results, they want to co-create outcomes. Like “D’s”, they are action oriented, but in a different way. Their actions are about engaging team members, and while results are important, what matters to an “I” is the level of engagement and involvement with other members of the team in order to be effective.

  • Who are your allies in creating accountability?
  • How can the team celebrate success as it works together toward goals?
  • How can the team better tap into the specific strengths of each team member?

View #3:  Adapt the “S” style of listening

One of the strengths of an “S” perspective is creating safety so change can occur and tough conversations can be tackled. Borrow the “S” style of calm discussion in pursuit of understanding all the facts and bringing all voices into the discussion about accountability.

  • What questions need to be asked to bring clarity?
  • What can the team agree to in terms of behaviors of interaction that encourage positive outcomes?
  • Who needs to be involved in these discussions?

View #4:  Incorporate the “C” conscientiousness

One of the hallmarks of a “C” point of view is doing the right thing by applying logic and rational evaluation and disarming drama and high emotion that often escalate when accountability is not addressed.

  • What standards can the team put in place to help track agreements, expectations, and outcomes?
  • What assumptions need to be identified and addressed in order to create greater clarity and buy in?
  • What are some practical solutions to team issues around accountability?

So, which view would be most helpful today as you dedicate yourself to shifting the team dynamics toward greater accountability?