Establishing Team Accountability at Work

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  • 0:05 Team Accountability
  • 0:52 Importance
  • 1:57 How to Establish…
  • 3:30 Exhibiting Accountability
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jenifer Powell
Team accountability is important in the workplace to ensure that all components of a company's goals are being met. In this lesson, we'll look at the importance of accountability, how to be accountable at work, and the positive outcomes of being accountable.

Team Accountability

Max is a member of a project team working to develop a new tracking process for the sales department. Max's part in this project includes re-coding the current system to allow for the sales growth the company has been experiencing. At the end of each week, all of the team members that Max works with meet to demonstrate the progress they've made towards their parts of the project and set goals for the next week.

There are no other programmers on the team, so Max frequently gets frustrated when he has to explain the complicated technical problems he's running into to his team. Because of that, he tends to just report that his part of the project is meeting its weekly goals, even when it's not. A month into the project, Max finds himself getting further and further behind, since each week's goals progress the project even further.


Every person who works for a company provides a unique skill set and contributes to the larger purpose of the company. Like a car engine, each part is necessary to make the car go. When one part fails, the engine may not stop altogether, but other components are affected, sometimes by having to work harder to compensate. Accountability is like having a self-healing engine, each part monitoring the work of the other parts and making adjustments to keep the engine in optimal condition.

When we work as part of a larger project or even on an individual project, it's vital to make sure that we have someone to hold us accountable for our work without fear or worry that we're not measuring up. Accountability means demonstrating your ability to perform your job responsibly to one or more people. This doesn't mean you always need to get everything right the first time, but you do need to be able to honestly relay when you're struggling, make a mistake, or just need someone to bounce ideas off of. Being accountable not only helps you work through issues with your own work but also helps others stay on track when their work relies on what you're doing.

How to Establish Accountability

You can establish accountability with your colleagues by being upfront about your commitments at the beginning of a project, or even at the beginning of your employment. Be honest about how much time and effort you are able to devote to your work so that your expectations will be appropriate. If you're unable to meet a commitment, let your team know as soon as possible and don't offer weak excuses. Whether you overestimated your available time or underestimated the scope of the project, let your team know, apologize, and then work on finding a solution to the problem. Your teammates may be disappointed initially, but ultimately they should respect your honesty and commitment to your work.

A team can establish accountability in much the same way. It starts with being realistic about what they can accomplish and when. This requires everyone to be thoughtful and honest about their other time commitments and abilities. It can be tempting to over-promise at the start of a project, but doing so typically sets the team up either to not meet their deadline or have to put in lots of extra hours at the last minute. Conversely, it can also be tempting to under-promise so there's no risk of missing a deadline, but this doesn't motivate a team to work to their highest potential.

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