The Accountability of Collaboration

Published: October 7, 2016

Stay in your lane! Teams can achieve impressive success without collaboration. The recipe is simple: work hard, ensure competence, and be nice. As long as everyone makes their contribution, business gets done and, often, the results are good. Greatness, however, is rarely achieved without a commitment to share ideas and resources. But inviting a teammate into your lane means having to be accountable for the overlap. It’s harder work. We all drive differently when there’s a passenger onboard.

Begin with the generous question: What do you need most from me to thrive in your role? Depending on the stage of the team’s lifespan, the answer might have critical impact. Consider these typical scenarios:

Simplified Team Clock

A newly formed team: “I need you to fully understand our mission and make sure your day-to-day words and actions are true to our organizational values.”

An established team: “I need to trust you’ll communicate with transparency and follow through with the aspects of your job that affect the rest of us.”

An innovating team: “I need you to have the courage to think differently and value the perspectives of others. While we may have the same destination, there may be many paths to get there.”

A changing team: “I need you to find a way to let go of the way is used to be and embrace our new circumstances.”

Each of these examples move the team forward through the action of accountability. If we choose not to ask the generous question, we can seek comfort in the safety of hard work, competence, and kindness. True collaboration, however, shuns safety for the risk of considering the needs of your teammates.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.