During my 10 years in the NBA — eight as a player in Dallas, Utah and Detroit and two as a broadcaster in Minnesota — I noticed a clear correlation between accountability and team performance.
Every team had a distinct culture, whether it was on the court, in the locker room, at practice, or even on team flights.
After defeat, players for winning teams could be heard saying “my fault” and “my bad.” They acted as if they lost the game all by themselves. There was this strong sense of accountability. Even though it was a team effort, each player understood how his play directly contributed to the team’s results. You could hear a chorus of players consoling each other and taking ownership in a mistake or lack of production that contributed to the loss.
And when that same team won (which was the norm), the players complimented each other and never bragged about their own play: “Hey! No big deal. I am just doing my job as a team member.” Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that locker room culture?
When I played on losing teams, or visited locker rooms for post-game interviews of losing teams, I noticed a vast difference. Players were self-serving, and narcissistic observations filled the air. There were comments like: “I’m the best player in this league!” “I’m glad my teammates got me the ball.” “I need the ball!”
It wasn’t the smell of sweaty uniforms, BenGay or basketball sneakers that made it hard to breathe. It was the self-aggrandizing commentary that sucked the oxygen out of the room. A whole lot of “I” and “me” filled the room.
Thirteen years after leaving my broadcasting job with the Minnesota Timberwolves, I see the same issues in corporate America. Winning organizations have a culture of accountability, just like winning NBA teams. Organizations that struggle to survive or continue to underperform have similar characteristics to those found in losing NBA locker rooms.
The lack of accountability within the business community is at an all-time high and is degrading revenues.
Only 44 percent of employees feel that people in their organizations take full responsibility for their actions, according to a recent poll by Modern Survey. Other surveys suggest that up to 80 percent of business leaders struggle with holding others accountable. This is significant because accountability has to start at the top.
I am always concerned when I consult with organizations and hear their strategic plans to grow sales and increase revenue, yet there is no attention given to their culture. Many business leaders just don’t understand how important it is to build the right culture. They have dissention, unhealthy factions, bitter employees, and high turnover, but want to improve the bottom line and are running on a treadmill going nowhere fast.
Accountability improves results by improving culture, naturally improving employee engagement, leading to performance improvement.
Here are 10 benefits of establishing a culture of accountability:
- Attracts and retains high performers.
- Rids you of poor performers. They will leave on their own.
- Defines how you make commitments to one another on projects that require team effort.
- Greatly increases job satisfaction and corporate alignment.
- Employees are more likely to take on responsibilities that match their strengths.
- Improves how employees interact when things go right or when things go wrong.
- Employees take more ownership in their jobs.
- Employees are more highly engaged, ultimately resulting in increased productivity.
- Goals are more easily reached and maintained.
- Less time and energy is wasted on covering tracks or destructive behavior.