It's easy to make promises. It's harder to deliver on them. Yet, you need consistent delivery if you and your team are going to get the results you want. You need clear goals and disciplined execution.
Unfortunately, I see teams struggling with this on a regular basis. In each meeting, there is a flurry of commitments and agreements that all sound great, but as soon as people leave the room, everyone forgets what was said and weeks go by with no results or even recollection of what was promised.
Great teams take commitments seriously. They know that to be successful they need to work collaboratively and depend on each other to complete their work. Members of successful teams don't take promises lightly because they know others will be affected if they don't deliver how and when they promised.
Here are several behaviors that I see in high-performance teams that you can use to raise the bar on commitments and improve your team's results.
1. Set clear long-term goals
Understanding the big picture and long-term goals will allow everyone to better see what work needs to get done. It is also important to establish clear definitions of done and of overall success. This will allow your team members to be more specific with tasks and timelines. Compelling long-term goals will also increase motivation and engagement by aligning people around a bigger idea and a vision for a better, more desirable future.
2. Define roles and responsibilities
Much of the drama on teams around commitments is caused by not having clear roles defined. If each member's responsibilities are not well-defined and not broadly understood, it leaves members guessing about who's working on what and how handoffs will take place. It will lead to incomplete tasks or excessive communications and negotiations on tasks, or both.
Beyond basic roles, it is also important to work out the key processes that you and your team are responsible for. Map out the steps and who will do what at each step. Having clarity on each process will increase efficiency and reduce drama.
3. Capture commitments
I've been in too many meetings where many important items are discussed and plans are made, but no commitments are captured. People leave the room feeling good, but with no clue as to who is doing what and when. It is impossible to build a culture of accountability without capturing and tracking commitments and responsibilities.
All of the best teams I work with as a coach have a central document or system that tracks all of the outstanding and completed commitments for the team. At the beginning of each meeting they review outstanding commitments and identify any delayed or at-risk items. Then, at the end of each meeting, they review who is committed to doing what and when it will be completed.
4. Ruthlessly prioritize
Another bad habit I see in underperforming teams is over-committing themselves. The fact is there are only so many hours in a day and you can only commit to those items you know you can comfortably complete. Committing to more than this is irresponsible and will end up letting the team down.
Good teams continuously prioritize their work and manage their time to focus commitments on those items that are strategic and important. They will challenge each other if they think someone is either working on something that is low priority or has a full plate and risks over-committing themselves.
5. Focus on personal accountability
I've been in many meetings where people drone on about why they didn't get something done when promised. Unfortunately, this is generally a waste of time. There are challenges with any task and reciting them to your teammates doesn't help.
Instead, focus on what is in your control. When you have or might miss a commitment, focus on what you've learned, what you're going to do differently moving forward, and what your new plan of attack is going to be. By taking personal accountability, you will empower yourself rather than look for excuses beyond your control.
Creating a culture of accountability is not easy. Great teams focus on it during each and every meeting and continuously improve upon it over time. Use the points above to begin defining your commitments. When you follow through, you will see your results improve over time.