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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Five Reasons Your Team Won’t Take Responsibility and How You Change Can That

Things don’t get done unless people take responsibility. And in organizations, leaders and team members must take responsibility to move the vision, and the overall organization, forward. So, why do team members sometimes abdicate responsibility? What holds them back from stepping up when things are on the line? While the reasons can be numerous, here are five common reasons.

1. Lack of Clarity

There are times when a team member doesn’t take responsibility because they lack clarity about expectations. It’s not that they don’t want to do what’s right, they were just never given a clear role description, expectations, objectives, or deadlines. This is especially common when onboarding new team members.

2. Lack of Commitment

Author Patrick Lencioni observes team dysfunction begins when there is an absence of trust. That trust gap creates a fear of conflict, which means when decisions are made about the organization’s direction, team members exhibit a lack of commitment because they never felt comfortable weighing in on the decision. Simply put, the fear of conflict (caused by a lack of trust), produced a decision that people couldn’t buy-in to. What’s the outcome? When team member lack commitment, they ultimately avoid accountability for the decision, which leads to an inattention to results. This is why a feedback culture is so important. It allows everyone to weigh in so that they can buy-in.

3. Lack of Competence

Some team members don’t take responsibility because they lack the skill to do what needs to be done. It’s not a matter of want to but rather the ability to. As a result, they make excuses, hem haw around, or find ways to delay effort and action. Rather than admitting what they don’t know or can’t do, they pretend, or worse, shift blame. This is why ongoing personal growth, professional development, and leadership coaching is so important.

4. Lack of Confidence

A lack of confidence can stem from a variety of things such as personal insecurities or past failures. When confidence wanes, team members can enter into a doom loop where their lack of confidence leads to a delay in action, which results in no progress, ultimately compounding the lack of confidence. This is why it’s so important to provide ongoing encouragement and belief in your fellow team members.

5. Lack of Courage

Finally, some team members don’t take responsibility because they lack courage. In other words, they’re too scared to take a risk, have a hard conversation, or confront the issues that need their attention. As a result, they keep delaying what needs to be done. They need someone to talk to about their fears, and who will encourage their hopes as they identify easy next steps. Sometimes the big, scary steps just have to be broken down into bite-sized pieces.

So, what’s the cure for these five responsibility gaps? Each one is unique, but generally speaking, there are four primary ways to help a team member take responsibility and overcome the gap that’s undermining them.

1. Clarity

If the team lacks clarity, it’s your job as the leader to provide it. They cannot read your mind, so be sure to establish a clear role description, expectations, and answers to any questions they might have. By providing clarity, you remove ambiguity and help the team see the path forward.

2. Coaching

For many of the responsibility gaps, coaching is the best first step. For example, when there’s a lack of competence, confidence, or courage, the team may just need some practical coaching to get them moving forward. They need someone to believe in them, provide perspective, offer key insights, and help them take the right next step.

3. Culture

Team members need a culture that values relationships, accountability, and feedback. Relationships will help you address the lack of connection, and accountability and feedback will help you address a lack of commitment. When these dynamics are part of your culture, they make it harder to hide behind responsibility excuses.

4. Consequences

Finally, with some responsibility issues, you need make the consequences for failure to change clear and timebound. For example, character issues must be addressed immediately. There’s no time to delay, and immediate change is required. Team members need to understand what the consequences will be if a change doesn’t happen by a specific deadline.

Addressing responsibility gaps aren’t easy, but when leaders do, the respect from the rest of the team increases. Not only does productivity increase, but so does organizational momentum and the health of the team.

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