Author: Scott Brumburgh, Senior Consultant Bridges in Organizations, Inc.
If the team you lead struggles to be performance accountable, take a fresh look at the way team meetings are run. Chances are your agenda overwhelmingly focuses on managing task information: identifying problems or advances since the last meeting in order to assess progress, and then problem solving as needed. In contrast, a meeting in which team members engage in conversations focused on the critical commitments that emphasize accountability has a different structure. An agenda for accountability focuses on managing team commitments. This kind of meeting will determine overall team success or failure.
What’s different in an agenda to manage team commitments?
- Different Input: Rather than updating the team on what they did since the last meeting , essentially past history, members take 2-3 minutes to provide valid assessments (i.e., an opinion or judgement backed up by evidence) of their major promises. Assessments such as: “I’m on target to meet the June 1 deadline,” or “I need help to stay on course in spite of the other 2 big projects I am working on,” or “Due to _______, I’m no longer able to fulfill my promise.” And no stories, just the facts to back up the assessment.
This approach has all team members dealing with their most relevant matters and not tangential problems. Most importantly it reinforces attention to the big picture and what the whole team, not just the leader, must address to assure shared future success.
- Different Responsibility: Based on what each individual member shared in the input phase described above, the next conversation centers around the team’s overall promise or mission. Instead of engaging problems from a limited set of ”silo” concerns, members jointly determine to what extent, at that moment, the team is on target to achieve its overall promise.
Team accountability gets heightened as members now discuss concerns that affect them all: Do we share or provide additional resources where we are lagging? Do we change commitment dates or expected outcomes? What will be the impact to the overall team purpose and promise if we make adjustments?
When everyone becomes highly engaged in this way, they experience the sense that “the team has my back,” and they become more motivated to hold to their commitments.
- Different Style of Problem Solving: Effective team meetings can be conducted in as little as 30 minutes in order to manage overall team accountability. Rather than taking up valuable meeting time to solve matters affecting only some team members, the team develops an action agenda for subsequent small group problem-solving and timely reporting. In this way, everyone’s time is respected.
- Team meetings become vital discussion times with each member gaining greater awareness of the others’ commitments and the impact on overall team progress.
- By sharing and monitoring each other’s commitments, everyone’s interest and responsibility to the team’s overall purpose is increased.
- Leaders can confidently address team performance to needed results, and better manage day-to-day problem-solving issues that tend to consume their attention.
by Scott Brumburgh, based on the work of Robert Dunham, Institute for Generative Leadership