The caption above may sound like a joke to team leaders and members alike. After all, a team is all about sharing and exchange. There are no individuals in a team; it’s a cohesive, collective group.
However, minding your own business in a team is crucial for goal achievement too. Affirming the individuality of team members leads to its cohesiveness as a single body that’s far superior than the individuals in it.
Imagine a team of rowers. All of them have been given a set of targets in terms of speed and direction. They have to help steer the boat together as a single team and yet if the boat has to achieve the targets, each rower has to do his bit. Rower A must keep an eye on his own limb movement, timing and speed rather than concentrate on Rower C’s slip ups. Rower C must feel accountable for the slips ups on his/her own part and not blame others for the unique contribution s/he has to make in rowing the boat. This is in essence, minding your own business.
Schuitema believes that this ‘minding your own business’ in a team happens when each team member knows exactly what s/he is supposed to do. We call this specifying a team member’s unique set of accountabilities and the collective responsibilities.
In an organization likewise, achieving growth and excellence depends on what each member of the organization contributes. In set ups where work flows through a set of people to become results, there is often a sense of helplessness if there are no clear accountabilities and responsibilities.
Accountabilities and Responsibilities:
We define accountability as the unique set of contributions an employee has to make in order to achieve a set of specified goals in a given period of time. The employee is to be rewarded or remonstrated as per these contributions. These contributions are not mutual with anyone else. Responsibilities on the other hand are shared set of tasks that aim towards a specific goal.
For instance, when I worked for a commercial bank in Pakistan as a Process Improvement Project Manager at its Service & Quality department, one of my key responsibilities was to facilitate the process improvement teams that were made on a project basis for any particular area of the bank. Once the process was improved the team would present its recommendations and implement them accordingly with the consent of all the concerned departments represented in the team.
The teams were formed by the request of Business Unit Heads (senior most management tier of the bank) to the Quality department. This meant that the ownership of the process improvement was with the concerned department all along, my job was to facilitate the improvement.
My unique contributions included:
· All the meetings I conducted to explain the team objectives,
· Ensure that the meetings were effective, regular, relevant and productive.
· Explain the quality tools the team would use to improve the cash management process,
· The follow ups in each meetings from members regarding their deliverables,
· Getting the improved process vetted from each department concerned, and
· Making the final presentation to the senior management
My accountability was not to ensure the improvement of the process because I shared this objective with the rest of the team. I was also not responsible for ensuring that team members finished their deliverables within the stipulated time, since that again depended on the team members and others they had to get the work processed from.
My boss would be completely aware of what I was uniquely responsible for and would explain his department’s areas of intervention to other departments if they queried. Since I also knew my accountabilities specifically, I would not lose sleep over procrastinating team mates or be anguished about the process not taking the shape it was supposed to.
My focus instead was on what I could do in the situation alone. I could improve the trainings on the quality tools, I could send reminder emails to members delaying their deadlines, I could ask the team founder to intervene in case his department was getting sidetracked etc.
Because of this structured environment, our department was one of the most productive ones at the bank since all of us knew exactly what we were supposed to do in a given situation. We did not have to wait endlessly for what others were not delivering, we would simply move on to the next level of action that pertained to our job description.
This also helped us to stay motivated since we knew we were doing our best to meet the project objectives. And it also kept our department going despite massive organizational changes.
Photo courtesy: www.b-v-i.com
Afia Mansoor is a thinker, writer and a mother. She conducts workshops on Family and Personal Excellence. She holds an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi and currently resides in Islamabad with her husband and three sons.