Cultures of Accountability

“To me, the best-run clubhouse in a lot of ways is a clubhouse where the players hold each other accountable. I think it always means so much more.”
Joe Girardi

As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I follow the team closely and have written several blog posts relating situations with the Cubs to issues in education (e.g., Why Joe Maddon Should Be a School Principal). So, I followed with great interest recently the decision to part ways with their manager Joe Maddon and the process of selecting a new leader for the 2020-21 season and beyond. The front office eventually settled on David Ross, a hero to many Cubbie fanatics, but my personal choice was former Yankee manager, Joe Girardi, who also interviewed for the position. During the interview process, an apparent perceived negative of Girardi’s candidacy was his reputation as a strict disciplinarian. When asked about this reputation and his thoughts on holding players accountable, he responded with the above quote. 
Having never played for Giradi, I cannot confirm his managerial style, but I certainly support his stated belief that the best clubhouse would be one in which everyone--not only the manager--holds each other accountable. Not surprisingly, the exact same sentiment holds true for schools:

“To me, the best-run school in a lot of ways is a school where the educators hold each other accountable. I think it always means so much more.”

I suspect it is not easy to create and maintain a baseball clubhouse culture in which the players hold each other accountable. I know from actual experience that it is definitely challenging to achieve this in a school. Too often, holding a staff member accountable becomes the sole responsibility of the school principal. Even when a teacher knows a colleague is not adhering to shared cultural norms and values, and even though it may upset that teacher, the response too often follows along the “I’m just a…” line, one of the most dreaded (and inaccurate) statements some educators seem to believe: “I’m just a teacher; it’s not my job…” In some schools, however, educators have worked together to establish a different type of school culture, one in which no staff member is “just a..” and one in which all staff members in the school hold each other accountable. Importantly, they hold each other accountable not as a “gotcha,” but simply as a “pick-me-up” reminder that we are all in this together. 


Obviously, some aspects of individual staff member performance are the domain of the principal, such as formal evaluations. But other aspects of individual performance are behaviors we should all expect from each other and for which we should each hold others accountable, regardless of our role. Stated simply: We should all hold each other accountable for doing what we said we were going to do. This requires us first, of course, to have explicit conversations about what we value and what actions we are willing to take collectively and individually to uphold these cultural values, expectations, norms, behaviors, and beliefs. Once we have such conversations and commit to specific action steps, it then becomes easier to remind each other of them throughout the year. Inevitably, staff members will at times fail to adhere to these commitments. Almost always, these instances are not due to any malicious intent or woeful incompetence but, instead, simply as a result of competing responsibilities or circumstances beyond our control. Perhaps an irate parent in the school office prevented a principal from being in the cafeteria interacting with students and staff like she said she would. Perhaps an upset student in a classroom prevented a teacher from being in the hallway during class transitions like we said all staff would do. These things happen. When they happen regularly, it is important for one colleague to remind another that we said we were going to do something and it is important for every staff member to follow through on the commitment. It may be a principal reminding a teacher, but in truly productive school cultures it also includes teachers holding each other accountable. In addition, it also includes teachers holding principals accountable--again, merely reminding each other that we said we were going to do something and that it makes a difference when everyone does what they said they were going to do.

I suspect the most successful baseball teams have extremely talented athletes. I also suspect their clubhouse culture is one in which these amazing athletes hold each other accountable for doing certain things consistently, whether that includes showing up on time to team events or running out a ground ball. Likewise, our most successful schools are staffed with highly effective educators, folks who also have intentionally built a school culture in which every individual has the authority--and even responsibility--to hold every one of their colleagues accountable...for doing what they said they were going to do as members of the organization. Creating a culture in which we hold each other accountable for doing what we say we will do is another way we Teach, Learn, and Lead with Passion!

Cultures of Excellence

“ Culture is what enables teams of people to defy the odds and achieve the remarkable. ”  from the NfX Company Culture Manual “Culture”...