Results and performance matter in construction. Our success is measured by some pretty objective metrics – budget, schedule, quality, and safety. However, when we don’t meet the targeted expectations for these various measures, it can sometimes turn into a finger-pointing game with the blame landing in the lap of whoever isn’t in the room at the time of the charge. However, if we understand the dynamics of the team, we should know that any failure associated with any part of the project should be levied against the team as a whole. The entire team either succeeds together or they fail together – this is a big reason why a lot of people don’t like being a part of a team. 

Accountability is a crucial element of successful teaming and is a key ingredient in building a trusting environment. However, accountability needs to be practiced peer-to-peer and not just from the top down. The notion of “peer pressure” doesn’t end when we leave our teenage years. It can still exist, and can actually be useful when practiced and applied across a team trying to achieve its agreed-upon goals. Once a team sets its project goals and then commits to doing what it takes to achieve them, the rest is a function of accountability. 

The practice of accountability isn’t just about catching someone failing. It requires us to be aware of the tasks and deliverables each team member is accountable for and then checking in on one another to see how things are going, and it is your job as a team member to help fellow team members keep their commitments. That means you need to be in regular communication and conduct periodic check-ins with your team, whether it’s your job to do so or not. You see, many people have a tough time letting others know they need help or are having a hard time keeping up. Instead, they plug along on their own, don’t tell anyone, and just struggle – hoping it turns out. And when it doesn’t, it is usually too late to offer any support and that is all we are left with, is finding blame. This is where that vulnerability-based trust comes into play. In a trust-based environment, we establish the habit of authentically asking “How’s it going?” and expecting an honest answer. This is how we hold each other accountable, by providing the support needed to ensure that all team members succeed, which means that the project succeeds. Once you have worked on a team where vulnerability-based trust and accountability exist, you will always want to work in such an environment.

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