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Building an accountable team

Kirjoittanut: Tuuli-Emily Liivat - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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A team is only as strong as its weakest link, which is why it is of high importance to recognize how to build efficient teams and ensure that the community created within the team would keep each other accountable but also work as a safety net in the event something happens or goes differently.

There are two large factors in building an accountable team: those are accountability and internal motivation.

In her blog, Heather Elkington, a coach for leadership and high-performance teams to empower and inspire them to begin working as entrepreneurs, shares her insights into keeping the team accountable.


Accountability refers to being responsible for behaviours, performance, actions and decision. This is particularly important in the context of team learning as in team contexts: it is rather easy to put pressure onto the team dynamics through feeling that the contributions of every team member should be of similar weight in order to show equal input and accountability. Regardless, this is one of the most valuable learning we can truly obtain from the study programme: while we are united in working towards a similar vision, we are also different individuals with different needs and skill sets. This is easier to fathom in stereotypical hierarchy contexts and was rather difficult to come to terms within a flat hierarchy of team learning, but that does not diminish the value the words hold.

A team needs to share unified vision and have clear goals that they are working towards. With those set, the team must give accountability to their actions. An example of a lack of accountability can be displayed in many ways, such as the missing of deadlines, low engagement in conversations, being late to meetings.

Regardless of whether you recognize yourself as the one leaving meetings or you recognize that your team is facing the problem, work needs to be done firstly on one’s own self. This is a point of reflection and it is necessary to look into the mirror every once in a while to see how far you’ve come but also what to give extra attention to. What may oftentimes happen is a phenomenon called projective identification. In a nutshell, we may feel that we do not bring accountability to our own team, which is why it is easier to project our unwanted feelings that we have (guilt, shame, anger, inability to do something) onto someone else and identify them as belonging to someone else. This creates blame, invulnerability within the team and unnecessary friction.

How to turn inaccountability into accountability?

The preparation work needs to begin with one’s own self. In teams, it is very possible that the leaders in charge will share unnoticeable cues that end up influencing the team’s culture in more ways than one can imagine. As an example, a team lead who is doing things at the last minute or doesn’t show up for their team might soon find themselves in a situation, where the team follows their behaviour and KPIs don’t get met.
The actions that the leader takes need to be meaningful and respectful. As an example, the leaders should get hyper organised with their commitments and deadlines, go above and beyond in communication, aim to be respectful of the team’s time and change overpromising for overdelivering.

The employees or team members need to know what they are accountable for.
A way of showing this is by enhancing communication and guidelines on project and goal setting framework, consistent reporting rhythm and roles and responsibilities document. Visualising the goals is a fantastic way of providing meaning and showing a longer perspective: that we are working towards our goals with all of the steps we take, not just filling out to-do lists every day.

In the event that inaccountability does take place, to build accountability needs to show support and communicate that we are all working for the common goal. As an example, what other methods were used to contact people / how to ensure this course of actions will stay a one-time experience / what other projects or undertakings have been made are great questions to ask as they do not solve the problem for the person but instead, allow the person to approach the problem from a different angle and grow in the process.

Finally, it is useful to set a structure of consistent reporting that would include the project update, numbers, reasons for numbers and accountability in the form of what are the next steps.



Article. Elkinton, H. The 4 Steps to Building a Hyper Accountable Team. 3.10.2023.  Substack. https://inthemakingleadership.substack.com/p/the-4-steps-to-building-a-hyper-accountable?mcp_token=eyJwaWQiOjgxNjA3Niwic2lkIjoxODU5ODc2MjMzLCJheCI6ImJjZmQ2Nzc3MGQ2NGViY2FiMDhkZGY3YjA2MmM1ODIyIiwidHMiOjE3MDA5OTMxMjgsImV4cCI6MTcwMzQxMjMyOH0.VoEvEPDAl1Dkq2nRM_REl0YGm2U-H2z1xHrSDl1wYUs

Article. Kunst, J. Three Fingers Pointing Back to You. 14.09.2011. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/headshrinkers-guide-the-galaxy/201109/three-fingers-pointing-back-you

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