What High Performance Teams Expect from Each Other

Accountability within a team is crucial for reaching optimal performance. But accountability poorly defined can do more harm than good. Effective accountability has two parts: clear, reasonable expectations and constructive consequences. Too often teams have a vague or confused idea of what is fair to expect from each other — let’s address this first. We’ll return to consequences in a future article.

What We Can’t Expect

Let’s agree that we can’t expect perfect success with every strategic goal every time. Strategic goal achievement is inherently unpredictable. There are tons of unknowns that affect our ability to hit our objectives. If we got fired every time we missed a goal, we’d all be jobless!

For example, let’s say that our goal was to find product/market fit in the next 30 days. Of course, we should expect each other to pursue that goal with all of our strength, but that’s a complicated objective with an incredible number of unknowns that may or may not be possible in a month.

What we CAN Expect

Despite the unpredictable nature of strategic work, there are concrete things we can expect from each other. Here are the mutual expectations we recommend:

Expectation #1: Measure Clearly

Set clear goals with measurable, quantifiable success criteria.

We can’t say that we’re doing our jobs as leaders until we have goals with crystal clear measures of success.

Too often, we see vague goals like “Epand our production offering” or “Improve NPS”. We’ve got to do better.

A good goal reads like this:

Objective: Enter the enterprise market

Key Results:

  • 10+ sales to enterprises with 1000+ employees
  • 5+ of the deals start as completely cold leads (e.g. not from existing contacts)
  • Each sale requires zero custom development

Expectation #2: Fail Valiantly

We get after our strategic goals like we really, really mean it. No matter how busy we get, we work on them every week. We never give up, even when our goal turns out to be harder than we thought (they always are). We over-communicate about changes, and we ask for help when we are struggling. Bottom-line: We stay committed.

Expectation #3: Stay Honest

We do not hide our failures or imply that “almost done” is good enough. Admitting defeat is uncomfortable, and it should be. We set out to win every game, to prevail in every battle. But we also pride ourselves in having the inner substance to clearly call out our own shortcomings. We are matter-of-fact. We make no excuses.

Expectation #4: Learn Continually

Success is better than failure. Let’s not pretend that a failure is a success because “we can learn from it.” However, when the failures come — and of course they will, a lot — we’re obligated to learn the heck out of them. Even if 95% of the reason for a missed goal was out of our control, we focus on the 5% that we could have done better. That’s where the hope of improvement lies. That’s where champions focus their energy. We want to be at fault because then we can do better.

Suggested Team Reflection Exercise

In HabitStack, at monthly and quarterly meetings, each person answers the following questions:

  1. Successes. What’s the achievement that you’re most proud of? Why?
  2. Failures. What are your most problematic failures? What did not go the way it was supposed to?
  3. Reflections. What would you do differently if you could do it over again? What learning will you apply next time?

When it comes to strategic goals, we can’t expect perfect completion every time. But that doesn’t mean we have zero expectations of each other. We should expect each other to Measure Clearly, Fail Valiantly, Stay Honest, and Learn Continually.