Team AccountabilityThe lone genius has become increasingly rare. Even the individuals we celebrate most for their brilliance and influence—people like Richard Branson, Oprah, and Jack Welch—have smoothly functioning, highly productive business teams surrounding them. As the saying goes, “No man (or woman) is an island.”

Nearly all of us work as elements of teams — which inevitably affects our productivity. No matter how superior our skills, we depend on our teammates to help us meet deadlines and satisfy our consumers or superiors. Therefore, anything you can do to encourage your team’s sense of accountability results in fewer frustrations and greater results all around. Where do you start? 

Riding Herd

At the beginning of a new project or when you land a big new client, start by scheduling a focused team meeting. Outline each phase from beginning to end and make sure each person involved understands his or her responsibilities. Set deadlines, adapt general contingency plans to account for emergencies and other unforeseen events. Always have alternate contacts in the other locations and lay out alternate paths to success wherever possible. 

Get The Free Trial

Breakdowns Happen

No matter how carefully you plan, occasionally a team member will fail you. When it happens, don’t do his or her work yourself or have someone else do it, which simply enables the behavior. Instead, focus on how they will meet their promised obligations. It still surprises me how often people get away with ducking responsibilities just because their leaders give up on them and go around them. But that’s unfair to the team members who do their jobs well.

When dealing with such a breakdown, ask yourself:

  • Did the team member forget, or was the promise broken on purpose?

  • How often has this happened before?

  • How badly did it hurt team productivity?

Lowering the Boom

Discipline is vital for instilling team-wide accountability, so address a slacker’s poor performance immediately, with follow-up until the job’s done. I recommend a four-stage process, based on the nature of the breakdown and how often lapses occur. 

1. Gentle reminder

A nudge, reminding them to do what they’ve promised and be more careful next time. See if the person needs training in organization. 

2. Frank discussion 

After a serious breach, or when an individual has made a habit of damaging team productivity, speak to them bluntly about their patterns and the impact on the team. Let them know you expect better. Document the conversations.

3. Notice

When the above factors fail, inform them they’re treading on thin ice. Tell them if they don’t shape up, they’re out. Put them on a corrective action plan. 

4. Goodbye

For those can’t shape up, exercise the nuclear option. Fire them directly if you can; otherwise, speak to the supervisor and ask for a more dependable partner.   

Rescuing Productivity

You can assure team accountability and productivity if you’re willing to be tough about it and stick to your guns. Clearly communicate team goals to all team members, then oversee performance to ensure you’re all in step. Everyone falters occasionally, so be on hand to coach when they do. Sometimes, you may have to be bold for the sake of the team as a whole. You may find this difficult, but overall productivity demands no less. 

About the Author:

Laura Stack White 01 HeadshotLaura Stack, MBA, Certified Speaking Professional, is America’s Premier Expert in Productivity™. For over 20 years, her talks have helped professionals, leaders, and teams execute more efficiently. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Her newest book, Execution IS the Strategy, hits bookstores in spring 2014. Laura has been featured by the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Connect at;; or @laurastack.


Want to grow your business smarter and faster? Visit our website or download the free e-book to find out how to do so with Salesforce.

Get The E-Book