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Put the "I" back in Team: building high performance teams

Erik Gabrielson

06 March 2017
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We all know the saying “there is no ‘I’ in team.” Its point – that individuals need to put the team ahead of themselves for the team to perform – has validity, but it fails to acknowledge the power of individual accountability. Accountability is the act of choosing to take personal ownership for something and is fundamental to high performing individuals (and teams).

A “team” cannot be accountable for outcomes. A high-performance team is made up of ‘I’s connecting to what they care about and to the purpose of the team, and choosing to be accountable for the outcomes of the team as a whole. This important distinction can get lost as we explore what it takes to drive performance.

Taking accountability is a commitment to self-awareness, where you review any assessments or judgments that you may have made or actions that you have taken that could have influenced a given outcome. What did you do (or not do) that was essential to the outcome? How did your actions influence events?

This self-knowledge broadens your range of options for response in the future and allows you to influence outcomes in a more positive way. When you choose to be accountable, every new situation is an opportunity to increase your self-awareness and enhance your flexibility. You free yourself and others from blame, fault and guilt, releasing energy that can be used to search for new and better ways to operate.

Being accountable means resisting the "siren's call" of being a victim (the payoffs for being a victim are shallow and short-lived). It means acknowledging things as they are and making the best choices available to you (and the team). It means relentlessly focusing on the goal, making results more important than excuses and learning more important than blame. When you live with accountability, you are accessing your personal power and your own capacity for growth.

Accountability is a personal choice I make about how I am going to approach life and every situation it presents. It is not the same as responsibility. Responsibility is something that can be delegated or assigned, accountability occurs only by choice. My boss can hold me responsible for a project, but my accountability is determined by the mood I carry and the level of personal ownership I hold for the project while it's being undertaken and afterwards, no matter what the results.

A team made up of individuals choosing to be accountable is built to thrive, adapt, learn and perform.

Do you have a high performing Team?

Download Your TEAM Scorecard

Erik Gabrielson



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