Accountability is a Team Responsibility

EIR Reflections: Week 9 of MIT delta v

August 9, 2019
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This is part of an ongoing series of posts by our Entrepreneur in Residence, Kosta Ligris, focused on guidance for the student teams taking part in our MIT delta v accelerator.


“Coach Belichick holds us accountable everyday. We appreciate when he’s tough on us. He gets the best out of us.” –- Tom Brady (spouse of Gisele Bündchen)  

Jack Welch, America’s CEO, has been quoted as saying that innovation is everyone’s job in an organization. With that as a backdrop, I urge every delta v startup to expand the team task list to include accountability.

Accountability is a team responsibility and something that each and every team member is responsible for both to the team and to themselves. As we approach the final few weeks of delta v, the pressure turns up. You need to focus on keeping each other accountable.

“Accountability is not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong. It’s not a confession. Accountability is about delivering on a commitment.” (The Right Way to Hold People Accountable, Harvard Business Review).

“Being there every week for my team is really important to me. It’s about accountability.”
-– Peyton Manning (retired NFL quarterback with only two Super Bowl rings)

What are you doing to keep each other accountable? Building a company is hard work and serious business. It doesn’t start at 9am and doesn’t end at 5pm.

Being an entrepreneur, for me, has always been a lifestyle, not a career. You are always working, networking, and wearing multiple hats. Sharing the successes and the wins as a team is always much more rewarding. The energy is contagious and makes all of the hard work worthwhile; it also gives us the energy we need when we are on fumes. To try harder, push past the resistance.

Being CEO can be a very lonely place. Decisions need to be made; sometimes tough ones that ultimately define the future of the organization, the culture, and the destiny of many. But accountability is not just a CEO job. Leadership may set the tone, but a strong culture of collaboration that moves the organization forward requires that you constantly test each other, challenge each other: beyond hierarchy, accountability is not a spectator sport.

The next few weeks will challenge everyone. You will have ups, you will have downs, but the way that you keep pushing each other to perform at your highest possible levels rests in accountability. Hold each other accountable and hold yourself accountable … because your team needs you to bring it all.

“Everybody is going to have to be accountable. If you’re on the field, you have to give me 100 percent. Always. We have to weed out the bad seeds, point blank. If you can’t give me what I’m giving you on the field, I don’t need you on the field with me. I have no problem telling that guy I don’t need him on the field, and I have no problem going to tell Bill (Belichick) I don’t want him on the field. That’s how you win.”
Vince Wilfork, (retired defensive tackle, New England Patriots, same number of Super Bowl rings as Peyton Manning)

What defines a “win” for you in the next few weeks? Ask each other and have a plan of what needs to get done. Assign responsibilities, support each other, celebrate together, but remember to hold each other accountable.

Remember that “you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.” If you see someone on the team that is not performing or is a problem, it is everyone’s responsibility to call it out, address it, and move on. There is no time or room for the “blame game.” It’s counterproductive, a waste of time, and triggers emotions that lead to systemic cultural problems. Check out The One Thing That Kills Accountability Stone Dead in Forbes. Focus on the lessons to be learned, and grow from them; check out How to Stop the Blame Game in Harvard Business Review.

“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit, and how they all function together.”
–- Bill Belichick (head coach, world champion New England Patriots, eight total Super Bowl rings)

Don’t enable the problems or weak links; your team depends on it. Always work together to create a culture of accountability; it is your responsibility as a member of the team. And although it may not be easy, sustained accountability is the real challenge.

Don’t lose sight of how important accountability is. You need to make it a core principal in your team and create a safe culture where accountability is a tool for success and learning. Accountability is not passive, it’s not periodic, it’s not a check box or talking point at a review or meeting. Accountability is full-time, all the time, and “micro-management is not scalable.”

Check out Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 talking about “A Powerful Pledge That Spreads Accountability in the Workplace.” He talks about the team being called a tribe, and what is the vision (or standards) of the tribe. He talks about how values define the tribe – and set the tone for the culture and accountability. What are your values? Where does the tribe want to be on September 6th when you are on stage pitching at delta v Demo Day?

“In putting together your standards, remember that it is essential to involve your entire team. Standards are not rules issued by the boss; they are a collective identity. Remember, standards are the things that you do all the time and the things for which you hold one another accountable.”
Mike Krzyzewski (head coach, Duke Basketball & USA Men’s Olympic Team, five-time NCAA Championship, five-time Olympic Gold Medal winner)