Kogon Blakemore and Wood

Team Accountability Sessions: How to Get Your Team in the Groove

In last week’s blog, I mentioned that one of Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood’s four qualities of a great leader is to practice accountability. But teams aren’t going to all be sitting around one computer always letting you know what they’re doing. So how do you ensure your team is actually working on a project as opposed to just saying, “Yeah, I’m working on it,” before going back to checking Facebook for the fifth time that day? The way to do this is through a team accountability session. These short meetings gather members of your team to ensure your project is on track and everyone understands their contribution to the overall project. If someone needs help, their problems aren't just left in the dust. Rather, these contributions are understood, discussed, and even tackled in the accountability session.

So How Do These Meetings Work?

Think of your usual team meetings. How much time do you spend actually paying attention or caring about other people’s contributions to the project? Do you zone out whenever something doesn’t apply to you? I’ll admit, I’m guilty of that. In undergraduate years, I could always tell which classes I was disengaged from based on how elaborate the doodles in my notebook were.

Team meetings aren’t much different from classes. If you don’t feel like you’re contributing or you don’t feel like the content will affect your end goal, you probably won’t be engaged and you won’t offer input. Team accountability sessions are different in that they are short: no time for long-winded explanations of the nuances of other people’s contributions. Instead, team accountability sessions focus on the following goals:

  • Looking over the entire project to see where the team needs to be and where they are going
  • Addressing the past week’s commitments and ensuring there aren’t any problems that need to be solved
  • Create new goals for team members based on where the project needs to go

The main difference between the traditional status meetings and team accountability sessions is that it’s active more than passive. Rather than assigning someone to solve a problem, the whole team works together. If you’ve ever solved problems working in a group, you’ll know it makes you feel like you’re in the groove. Rather than everyone rushing to leave, everyone is working hard until they get to a natural conclusion. Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood call this feeling “cadence” and describe it in the following way:

“Everybody knows what’s expected when, and how to achieve it; no one person is responsible, no one person gets the glory or takes the fall. Everybody is moving forward together; anyone who needs help gets the whole team’s support.”

-- Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager (2015)

When a team is in the groove, they’re bound to be more successful than a team just doing a job. The goal of a project manager is to initiate this sense of cadence to build team success. It may sound corny, but when people are engaged in what they’re doing, they’ll work harder, do better, and overall make the project more successful.

You Can Lead: Four Behaviors that Make Great Leaders

Leading a team can be daunting. Some people are born leaders while others don’t think they really have what it takes. If you’re one of those people who thinks there’s no way you could ever lead a team, think again. In their book Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood identify four main behaviors that can help you establish yourself as a leader.

  1. Demonstrate Respect

Think of the best leader you’ve ever had. This can be anyone: a project manager, a boss, a team leader, or even a teacher or coach. How did this person treat you? Chances are, they had some semblance of respect for your abilities, ideas, and contributions. A good team leader knows how to gain respect by showing respect. And that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to be a hard-ass when the situation demands it. If someone isn't doing their job or working to their abilities, you should address that respectfully, but not passively. You might hurt someone's feelings, but you'll hurt everyone on the team by not addressing problems.

  1. Listen

For any of you that haven’t been in a leadership position, I’ll give you a little secret: we don't know everything. In fact, we might know less than some of our team members. But we shouldn’t try to compensate by talking. Instead, good leaders need to listen. Listening identifies new ideas, uncovers potential problems, and incites good collaboration between team members. You can’t do this if you’re talking over someone.

  1. Clarify Expectations

Something I’ve noticed working in teams is when you tell teammates “Just do whatever,” you just end up with a mess. No one really knows what they’re doing to help, work is done sloppily, repeated, or not done at all, and everyone is just generally frustrated. When you give someone a clear purpose and explain your expectations, they have a goal and feel like they are placing a puzzle piece that fits into the whole.

  1. Practice Accountability

Accountability has two parts: being a role model and giving credit. As a team leader, your actions shape the team. If you don’t care, then your team likely will not care much either. Likewise, if you’re motivated to succeed, your team will likely also be motivated. Your actions and attitude as team leader should be the same as the ones you want your team members to display.

Good team leaders also give credit where credit is due and admit their mistakes. Good things aren’t all their doing and bad things aren’t only the fault of others. Let’s face it, it feels good to get credit for something you did well, while it’s annoying to have someone else take that credit. So why would you not offer that to the people you lead?

You might ask yourself, “What if I don’t have these traits?” Leaders don’t just sprout from the ground perfectly ready to lead. You just need to practice. Listen to and respect your team, set your goals, and be the person you would want as a fellow teammate, not just a leader.