Last year, my husband and I decided to extend our patio. The contractor told us it was a three day job and to quote them, “a very simple project”. It actually took 3 months and a lot of stressful days and nights.
My biggest frustration through the entire project was the lack of accountability I encountered from everyone on the project. The contractor blamed the subcontractor, the subcontractor blamed the contractor, and the project manager…when he actually showed up…blamed the sub-contractor, as well.
In order to try and get all parties on the same page, I called a meeting and made it very clear the blaming and finger pointing needed to stop, and the work needed to get done. They nodded, apologized, and agreed to do better. They didn’t.
In the end, we ended up having a 3rd party come in to complete the job, and guess what? They got the job done in two days, including deconstructing everything the first group had done!
To say there was a major lack of accountability on that project would be a gross understatement! This experience perfectly illustrates Patrick Lencioni’s model of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
There was no trust between the contractor and sub-contractor. I later found out they had never worked with one another. Neither was able to be direct with each other about expectations and performance, only complaining to me or my husband about how frustrated they were with the other party, thus avoiding conflict. As this happened, all parties became less committed to the job, and it took longer and longer to get anyone to do the work. Obviously, no one wanted to be accountable, and the results failed as another company had to be brought in to complete the project.
Although this situation illustrates all levels of this model, I am going to focus specifically on the Avoidance of Accountably level.
Accountability is a skill that has to be modeled by a leader if you want to build accountability within a company. If a leader fails to drive the accountability to his employees, there is little chance that the employees will step up and drive accountability amongst themselves.
The most effective type of accountability occurs when peers hold one another accountable to a standard of performance. We can see this illustrated on sports teams; if you don’t pull your weight, the other team members call you out on it, not just the coach. This pulls from the idea that peer pressure has more impact in motivating performance than a single authority figure. But this behavior has been modeled by the coach first and foremost.
The owner of the company we first hired was a nice person, but that was part of the problem…he was too nice. He had a hard time telling the sub-contractor that his work was not up to standard and that if he didn’t get things back on track within a specified timeframe, he would replace him with someone who could. When the sub-contractor failed to deliver on his promises, there were no consequences; and the pattern of failure just kept repeating.
The owner was unable to model how to drive accountability, and therefore, the project manager avoided being on site and driving the accountability as well.
Most people avoid dealing with accountability because it goes right back to level two of the pyramid, the fear of conflict.
In order to have effective and high functioning teams and companies, it is critical to have teams that can engage in real and direct conversations.
The key to these types of conversations lies in learning to put the focus on the behavior that needs to be improved and not on putting the person down. When teams and companies learn how to do this, they can address performance levels that are not meeting expectations long before a project fails.
Dedicated to raising your consciousness!