Accountability Creates Engagement

Although it was published in 1998, the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni, continues to be a great guide for how to engage employees and build effective teams. It may seem that the book is old news but the themes will always resonate when we reflect on what we are trying to accomplish in our organization. The number one goal of almost every organization is to grow the business. It seems straight-forward, but growth happens because of engaged people. In order to grow the scale and profits of an organization, employees need to get more tasks done more efficiently, and leaders must make things functional and positive so this can happen.

In his book, Lencioni introduces a pyramid that details the “five dysfunctions” of a team that cause them to be ineffective. Three of the levels - results, accountability and trust - are critical in driving accountability, and ultimately engagement, within an organization.

At the top of Lencioni’s pyramid is results. By clearly defining our direction as an organization and the results we desire, we can help our employees reach their personal goals while propelling the organization towards success. If we do not identify and communicate desired results, employees cannot be their most effective self. Without clarity of results, accountability becomes very “murky” and difficult to achieve.

Accountability is the second item on the pyramid. The highest performing individuals need, and want, to be held accountable. This provides them the opportunity to achieve at a high level, grow in the process and be recognized for their accomplishments. The most important ingredient in the engagement and retention of high potential, next-level leaders is the opportunity to grow. If we do not grow them we will lose them! If leaders do not hold them accountable they will not be recognized for their superior achievements because who will know?

Trust is the foundation of an organization’s effectiveness, and the last item on the pyramid. Trust is developed over time based on repeatable behaviors that become predictable. Trust is knowing what someone is going to do and how well they are going to do it. As accountability is related to the results desired, trust is related to the regularity that someone is going to do what they say, or accountability. Clearly defined results are necessary to have an accountability process and performance management system. Trust cannot grow in a healthy way without defined results and an accountability process that is encouraging and fair based on results.

Based on the concepts of results, accountability and trust, here are 3 steps for growing your business!

  1. Define results for next 18 months. Set aside planning time with key leaders to define direction and clear results. (We all do this but often stop short of well-defined goals that can be communicated across the organization.)
  2. Assess and create an accountability and performance management process that is tied to results. Accountability is not a “gotcha” punitive activity but an encouraging growth related one. (We all do this also, but are we looking at the results in an objective way or merely subjectively evaluating individuals and giving everyone the same pay increase or recognition?)
  3. Build trust by developing people. Group hugs have their place but real trust will come in the trenches of serving and acknowledging folks for the progress they make towards fair goals.

Do you think that accountability drives engagement of high-potential employees?

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  1. Kim's avatar
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    Great blog post Tim! I absolutely agree! The opportunity to grow is an important ingredient in employee engagement especially for high potentials. I think passion is a driver of engagement as well. Passion for your work and your company's purpose for existence are also great contributors to employee engagement. I also believe that for many individuals,especially high potentials, accountability is often considered "table stakes" for engagement and retention; it has to be there. The lack of accountability may be one of the highest drivers of dis-engagement! Some employees question why they give so much of their discretionary effort when others in the organization are not held accountable for their non-discretionary effort. This can quickly lead to turnover and none of us want to loose our next generation of leaders!

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