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Over Used & Under Executed: Accountability

Accountability is a primary component of building culture. I hear about it constantly - in sports, at work, on social media, in articles...there are even entire books dedicated to it. It's seemingly used everywhere, but very seldom is it carried out or modeled properly...But have you ever asked yourself why? Why is it such an elusive concept to execute? It may have to do with the fact that it goes hand in hand with trust, and not everyone wants to build that. It's difficult to build trust, and it takes time. But, if you are going to hold others accountable, your teammates have to trust that you are doing what's best for the team and not your individual agenda.

Accountability means people own their mistakes. Admitting shortcomings allows a way to find solutions quickly and keep the focus on the task at hand. Everyone knows the teammate who always has the excuses. The one you can't hold accountable, the one who rarely listens. The one with the eye roll, the bad body language, the one who is written off as a "locker room cancer" or a problem. The one who takes criticism personally, becomes defensive and makes excuses for deficiencies. It's easy to wonder - if you put all this energy into making excuses...what would it look like if you put that energy into fixing the problem?

The key to getting through to the excuse maker, as well as everyone on your team, is the strength of the relationship. No one will listen to criticism if it's just point out flaws without trust. How would they know your intentions are what's best for the team? It can be difficult to hold other people accountable, to have a voice, to point out inconsistencies because you want to avoid the reaction, or you already know it will be met with a defensive excuse. Think about that for a second - you hold back what's best for the team because of how a person might react to what you say. That's major dysfunction, and it happens frequently.

I've said before that at Lesley we committed to building culture before we ever even spoke about winning. We didn't let one behavior or mistake slide. Ever. And we were not particularly gentle with each other. Guys called out other guys to their faces, my players often told me how I was messing up and we pushed each other to the brink. I chewed out my assistant coaches, my players talked back to me (sometimes) and we all at some point yelled at each other. I know, it sounds dysfunctional but I promise it was the opposite of that because underneath it all was the foundation of trust. None of it was taken personally because we trusted each other, loved each other and we did what was best for our program. We gave our guys a voice and empowered them to build and own our culture. It sounds crazy, but calling people out meant there was no sniping, no muttering under the breath, no talking behind people's backs, no eye rolling, no sarcastic responses, no bad body language and no holding back the truth. When guys messed up, it was met with the truth, head on - guys listened, fixed it and we moved on. Guys responded to call outs and went out and did what we asked as hard as they could. Guys allowed themselves to be held accountable, they wanted it because it allowed them to grow and improve. Excuses weren't allowed.

The thing about culture, and especially accountability, is that it can cut right to the core. In big moments where emotions are high, it can be tough to listen to your shortcomings. But if you want to build culture the right way, have accountability be more than just an overused word and ultimately be successful, you have to work for it. You have to build that trust with everyone and outline clear values for your program....and we'll get into what that means next week.

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