Developing a Culture of 3-Way Accountability

In Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, avoiding accountability is dysfunction #4. Lencioni describes it like this: “Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.”

As leaders, we need to develop a culture of 3-way accountability…accountability with direct reports, with peers on our team, and with our boss. Let’s look at some ways to develop that culture.

1. Accountability with direct reports. This is a basic function of leadership and management. The boss must develop, communicate, and clarify job descriptions and performance measures (i.e., what the “win” looks like). I’m amazed at how infrequently this happens. As leaders, we often assume that people know what they’re supposed to be doing and what success looks like. But there are often different expectations because of a failure to communicate and clarify roles and expectations. Ensure that job descriptions are clear, up-to-date, and reality-based. Develop action plans with outcomes and metrics on what success means.

2. Accountability with peers. Here’s the tell-tale sign that this isn’t happening. One team member goes to the boss to complain about the actions (behavior or performance) of another team member. Often the boss will say, “Okay, I’ll go talk with them about it.” If that’s your response, you’ve just failed to develop a culture of peer accountability. The best response is, “Have you talked with them about it? If not, you have 24 hours to go talk with them about it. If after several conversation, you can’t work it out, then come back to me. And then and only then will I get involved.” Coach them through the conversation. Help them to understand the best way to go about it. But expect them to go to their peers directly. If not, you’ll become the arbitrator of every conflict.

3. Accountability with your boss. This is where it can get dicey. If you are a team leader, the sign of a healthy team is that your team members can come to you and share helpful feedback about how you’re leading. You have to develop this culture. You have to be the one who begins by asking your team, “How can I lead better? What do you see that would increase my effectiveness in serving and leading you and our team?” If you do this earnestly, honestly, and regularly, you will begin to develop a culture of trust and accountability. If you do it because the HR department is forcing you to do a 360 peer review, it will be contrived. Nobody will be honest. This is not to say that 360 peer reviews aren’t helpful. But if you haven’t develop an authentic culture of accountability, the tool won’t work.

What are you doing to develop a culture of 3-way accountability with your team? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

The Spiritual Discipline of Confession

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” (John 16:7-9)

In Gordon Smith’s The Voice of Jesus, we are taught the spiritual discipline of confession. Our confession of sin is first and foremost rooted in the reality that we are loved by God (Romans 5:8). God loves us extravagantly so, and our sin impedes our ability to hear Jesus’ voice in our lives. Smith writes, “God is calling us away from sin, from that which is not life but death, from that which undercuts our capacity to hear the voice of Jesus and be all that we are called to be” (p. 91).

Confession is the spiritual discipline that enables us to respond intentionally to the convicting ministry of the Spirit.

The spiritual discipline of confession includes (see The Voice of Jesus pp. 103-107):

  • The prayer of humility. We are sinners in need of mercy.
  • Acknowledgment of Wrong. We must agree with the Spirit that we are not living in what is true and good.
  • Acknowledgment of Responsibility. We must admit personal responsibility and culpability and no scapegoat and blame others or our circumstances.
  • Repudiation and turning from sin. We experience grief and remorse from our sin, but true confession also involves turning and repentance from our sin.
  • Acceptance of forgiveness. When we come to Jesus in confession, He promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
  • Reformation and accountability. Confession involves purposeful action towards change and transformation. We must develop concrete action steps to live in this new place of freedom and forgiveness. And there is great value in intentional accountability with another Christian brother or sister.

We are loved by the Father and we respond in gratitude. We are also convicted of our sin, and we respond in confession. This forgiveness frees us to hear Jesus voice more as the Spirit illumines our hearts and minds in the Scriptures, which in turn allows us to hear and follow Jesus’ guidance and He leads us in times of choice. See “The Prayer of Wisdom” for the pattern and character of our prayers.

Learn to practice the spiritual discipline of confession. Is there anything you would add to the spiritual discipline of confession?