21 March 2016

Peer Accountability and Your Dysfunctional Team

Peer accountability in the workplace is about creating a culture in which employees (instead of managers) hold each other accountable for their behaviours and performance. In a team environment, a culture of peer accountability can be a powerful motivator for performance. Rewards and punishments for lack of results may motivate some, but no one likes to let their team mates down, particularly when they respect each other.

 More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates that motivate people to improve their performance.

Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Barriers to Peer Accountability

There are two main barriers to creating a culture of accountability. The first is how people view accountability. People often equate accountability to “being held accountable for their actions”, which has punitive and often even childish connotations. Creating a culture of accountability is not about punishing people for their actions or behaviours, instead it means creating a team environment where people support their teammates in achieving their goals, and feels comfortable in discussing if someone’s behaviours have let them down or are preventing the team from delivering.

The second barrier is often an unwillingness to provide negative feedback to team members. People are often afraid to criticise others, fearing that it may lead to conflict or impact upon the team’s relationships. According to Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, teams that fear conflict create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive, they ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success, and they waste time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management. This leads to a failure to commit, an absence of trust and a team that is not focused on results.

Outcomes of peer accountability

A culture of peer accountability increases performance and team cohesion. It promotes trust, unfiltered (yet constructive) conflict around ideas, commitment to decisions and ideas, and a focus on the achievement of collective results.

Tips and Tools

The true measure of a team is that it achieves it “purpose” i.e. the results it sets out the achieve. To do this, a team must overcome the five dysfunctions:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

ACTION: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team resource is always a good place to start when talking about peer accountability and team cohesion. You can take this five minute on the spot quiz to assess the effectiveness of your team.

Reflection: What do your results tell you about your team? Does peer accountability play an important role in helping you and your colleagues achieve your purpose?


14 March 2016

Workplaces in Crisis: What are the Warning Signs?

Occupational Psychologists specialise in human behaviour in the workplace and are increasingly sort after by Australian employers to help to improve the efficiency of the organisations by developing a specific set of skills and behaviours among employees.

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics recently ranked industrial Occupational Psychologists as the fastest growing occupation in the US. The BLS is expecting a growth rate of 53 per cent in companies engaging organisational psychologists in the US between now and 2022 to help with the increasing demands placed on employees in the workforce today.

Macquarie University senior lecturer and organisational psychologist Ben Searle says organisational psychologists typically work in planning, policy and HR departments and are often valued members of senior management teams. Listing the top workplace stresses, he says “the issues that cause the most stress include juggling demands with inadequate resources, heavy workloads and time pressures, having to tackle multiple tasks, bureaucracy and red tape, no clear guidelines and ambiguity about a person’s role, conflict between work and home, office interpersonal issues, and physical danger.

“All workers handle stress differently and a good organisational psychologist will look not just at how a company is functioning but how each individual reacts to different situations.”

Unlike other consultants, organisational psychologists can show causality between their contribution in an organisation and the improvement among employees. Their effects are tangible, immediate and long term which benefits both the organisation and the worker and helps build competence and proficiency among the team as a whole as well as on an individual level.

Performance Strategies director and performance psychologist Rupert Bryce says the key is for employers and workplaces to recognise when outside expertise is needed and act on it in a timely manner.

“Increasingly, I work with clients who approach me at the crisis stage of the issue in their organisation, when the stakes are high and so are the emotions among employees. Leaders and managers are lacking the skills that enable them to recognise early warning signs, those key indicators that tell us that stress, change, communication barriers and wellbeing is reaching a point where outside help is needed to get things back on track”.

So what are the early warning signs?

  • Changes to communication style or behaviours such as withdrawing or declining invitations or requests.
  • Shifting patterns, for example a person who is usually early or on time for work is now showing up late.
  • Disproportionate emotions, for example significant negativity around small events or changes.
  • Perspective and judgement, for example a person regularly loses perspective of a situation or is making the wrong decisions.

ACTION: What warning signs have you recently observed in your workplace or amongst your employees? How long have these warning signs been happening?