Building Accountable Teams: Establishing Norms that Make Sense


Team Productivity Career Coaching Denver Does your team take its deadlines seriously and consistently hit agreed upon goals? Are you working in a culture where missed deadlines are a regular occurrence with no consequences? Building an accountable team is indeed a challenge.

So far this month, I have written about the “Five Keys to Improving Team Productivity” by addressing the importance of key one, building trust, and key two, deciding what to measure. This week I want to talk about key three, establishing norms.

As an executive coach, I frequently hear CEOs and managers complain about a lack of accountability from their team. After listening to their concerns and asking follow up questions, we can usually point to one of the following areas where a lack of clarity exists:

  1. Business unit or team level goals: Do team members know their top three goals for this year, this quarter, and this month? Why are these goals meaningful to our company and team?
  2. Individual roles and responsibilities: If I fail to do my job on time or accurately, what is the cost to our team, our customers, and the company?How does my job fit into the overall mission of the team and the company? Who are my internal customers and how can I work effectively with them?
  3. Team communication: What standards have been set for communication and reporting? Do we use “dashboard” reporting in Tableau software, an Excel spreadsheet, or a shared Google doc? Do we have ground rules on respectful communication?
  4. Processes and standards: Does everyone know the steps for handling a customer complaint? Do we agree upon the best practices for completing client projects?
  5. Consequences & Rewards: What happens if we miss a deadline? Do we have a process for addressing and improving performance issues? How will we reward teams and individuals for hitting goals?


Looking beyond the areas that require clarity, I can say that most of us begin with good intentions, but things get in the way. Many entrepreneurs resist setting processes because they fear becoming “too corporate”. Others simply hate conflict, and or don’t enjoy the management side of leadership.

Whatever the case, there are a few steps that can help.


  • Use the guidelines above as a checklist for creating appropriate norms for your team
  • Start with simple processes that support (rather than complicate) efforts toward efficiency and smart decision-making
  • Set up reasonable deadlines and elicit input on interim milestones with your team
  • When a deadline is missed, speak privately with the individual and ask what happened. Do they need more training in the software they are expected to use? Are they struggling to prioritize? Ask yourself if you have the right person in the job.
  • Face any conflicts now, calmly and in a fact-based manner, so the small issues don’t fester and become major obstacles
  • Learn to delegate the tasks that fall outside of your core strengths

Tune in next week when I will talk about the power of timely feedback and having an effective “debrief” process to solidify established norms and boost team productivity.0