How well do you coach accountability?

written by Erica Quam

Accountability (in terms of teamwork) can be defined as a willingness of team members to call one another out on mistakes or behaviors that are not aligned with team values.

The weakest teams have no accountability. On mediocre teams, the coach holds people accountable. On the strongest teams, the team holds one another accountable. 

I'm sure every coach out there would love a little more accountability on their team. It sounds great, right?

Accountability is hard AND a crucial piece to a team's success. It doesn't happen overnight. Most people prefer to blame, shame, or avoid it completely.

Take a Self Assessment

Rate yourself on each statement based on the scale: 4 = Always, 3 = Often, 2 = Rarely, 1 = Never

Add up your points as you go then compare to the descriptions below.

  1. I let my team know what my expectations are, what I want them to do, and how I want them to do it.
  2. I dedicate time to helping my athletes build trust with one another. 
  3. I teach my team productive ways of working through problems and conflicts that come up.
  4. I create buy-in by finding ways to include everyone and give them space to voice ideas and opinions.
  5. If someone breaks a team rule, there's a consequence that I consistently enforce.

15-20 points: You're doing some great work! This work definitely makes a positive impact on the culture of your team. You have a team who is on the same page working towards a common goal. While things aren't always perfect, there is an environment where people can say hard things when issues come up. Your team trusts you because of your consistency, clarity, and compassion. This allows them to connect to a deeper purpose as a team and respect individuals at a deeper level.

10-14 points: You've got some work to do. You may start the year off feeling okay. As the season gets going, things slowly unravel. You spend more time putting out fires than you do following any kind of plan. People often test you - to see how much they can get away with and how you'll react. Instead of engaging your team in fun activities, you have to be the one steering the ship - keeping everyone in line and putting in the effort to make things happen.

5-9 points: You're definitely struggling. Part of your team has no idea what's going on and the other half are doing their own thing. There's no middle ground! You're exhausted, overwhelmed and burnt out. You often wonder why you decided to do this in the first place! 

Research done on teams shows a direct correlation between team performance and accountability.  

How do you get your team to hold one another accountable?

Here are three steps you can take:

1. COMMUNICATE CLEAR & SPECIFIC EXPECTATIONS

The more clear you are with what you expect from your athletes and the more specific you can be about what that looks like, the easier it will be to get everyone moving in the same direction.

Tweet: Accountability is hard AND a crucial piece to a team's success. Most people prefer to blame, shame, or avoid it completely. #whocoachesyou

I believe it's so important to begin each new season with a discussion about expectations. What do you expect of your athletes? What do they expect of you? What do they expect of each other? 

2. SET BOUNDARIES & ENFORCE CONSEQUENCES

What's okay? What's not okay? AND what are the consequences?

Once people are clear on expectations, the next step is to set the standard. Once you set a standard, be clear on what the repercussion will be if the standard isn't met.

If you create rules without consequences then you're handing your team a whole lot of buttons for them to push - just to see what you'll do.

And we all know...they'll just keep on pushing those buttons until you draw the line. Once you've drawn the line, you've got to stand your ground - OR decide to change your standards.

3. MODEL IT FIRST

If you want a team that will hold one another accountable, you have to model this for them first. 

If you're the type of coach who flies off the handle and blames other people when something goes wrong, that's exactly the kind of team you'll have. The first step to accountability is personal: it means owning your mistakes, making amends, and apologizing for them.

It's a vulnerable position to put yourself in! Lots of coaches don't model personal accountability because they think they're always supposed to be strong. The reality is...admitting you've made a mistake is strong and can be one of the most powerful things that you do.


I'm curious...what was your score? What ONE thing will do this season to help your athletes hold one another accountable? Share it in the comments.