Trip Wires in Designing and Leading Teams Fall off the authority and accountability balance beam Create-Learning Team Building and Leadership

In an earlier post I share ‘5 Trip Wires in Designing and Leading Teams

This post looks at:

Trip Wire #2: Fall off the authority and accountability balance beam. 

There is no right way to create and sustain a team.

When organizing a group of people to complete a task anxiety is in the process. Both managers and team members tend to be uncomfortable clarifying areas of authority leading to a collusion of what they can and can’t do.

When all authority goes to the team and none to the manager.
  • This can result in anarchy or a team that takes the work in a direction that is outside the boundaries.
When all authority goes to the managers and none to the team.
  • This can result in managers dictating in detail how all the work gets done, losing many of the advantages that come from teamwork.

Finding where on this Authority Continuum [Manager—————-Team]  is appropriate in which context will help team effectiveness.

Authority Team Leaders should keep
  1. Authority about direction – the end states (large goal or objective)
  2. Boundaries, outer limits of team behavior – things the team must always or never do
  3. Accountability to support the team to achieve, move toward the goal or objective
Authority Teams should keep
  1. The means (the how) by which the work gets accomplished
  2. Accountability to define how the work gets accomplished

Effective teaming is impossible unless someone exercises judgment about direction. Having clear direction helps align team efforts with the objectives of the organization, provides team members with criteria to determine how to complete team tasks, and creates plus sustains energy within the team.

When the direction is unclear or absent, some people may result to political or manipulative means, others may become apathetic and have little motivation.

As a manager, who is designing and leading a team, addressing where accountability sits will have an impact on success or failure. This is a learned skill that comes from knowledge and wisdom through behavior and cognition. Just knowing the rules for defining authority and accountability is insufficient, practice is requisite to understand the context and apply discretion to help the team achieve objectives.

A looming challenge for managers happens in the early stages of creating a team. Managers are tempted to give away too much authority while still be accountable for the output.

Knowing the teams context, boundaries and having skilled-knowledge to determine where, at the moment, is best along the Manager———Team authority continuum will assist teams in achieving high performance.