The Power of Interconnected Accountability

Think what would happen if a quarterback hurled the American football with no regard to whether any player could catch it. Sounds absurd, right?. After all, football (American) is a game in which every team member loses or win-together. Shouldn’t the same be fitting in the entrepreneurship world as well? Though we include “teamwork” rhetoric, most firms continue to operate as a bunch of separate individuals with different goals.

Real teamwork requires what I call interconnected accountability. The traditional business arrangement is a vertical hierarchy: I report to a manager who reports to a manager who reports to the director. To move beyond that arrangement, we must become responsible to each other both laterally as well as vertically. That way, success for you is a victory for me. We unite, share resources, and strive for similar goals, and we all win.

Here are some tips for firms wishing to move toward interconnected accountability:

  1. Maintain support, don’t merely blame.

    In sports, strong teams stick together. All members accept the loss or the victory, and they all take accountability for each other’s performance. They encourage each other rather than pointing the finger whenever anything goes wrong and starting a blame game. Adopt this strategy at your firm. Rather than blaming your coworker when he drops the ball, say, “we’re here to support you; now what can we do in a different way?”
  2. Develop a blueprint of growth.

    Before you can talk about holding people responsible for stuffs, there must be a standard to hold them responsible for. Your team should set precise expectations up front and make them clear to everyone involved. It’s not sufficient to talk about a vision. Contractors never build a bungalow based on merely a vision! They start with a blueprint that identifies the soil, the foundation, the bricks, the wood, the thwalls, the roof all the way down to the size of the nails. The same should be valid for any company project. Create your blueprint upfront, and your “bungalow” will be strong in the end.
  3. Expect fallout- it is natural

    Interconnected accountability usually translates into hard work. And it often means letting go of plans a team member may have their ego wrapped up in. For both reasons, holding people liable will often expose-and even break-a the team’s “weak links.” I always tell my friends that some team members may give up and quit. If someone has been riding along in his job and failing to live up to his expectations, then turning the accountability spotlight on that individual forces him to support his team members in kind, or just walk away.

It’s incredible what can happen when coworkers support each other. I have seen grappling companies adopt interlinking accountability practices and simply turn themselves around. So the next time you’re intrigued to say, “I threw the football, see what an amazing player I am!” try saying, “How can I help you catch the ball?” Your team-that is, your firm will be on its way to success.

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