Accountability is critical to creating an effective and successful team, but you can't just throw random people together in a department or project group and expect them to be accountable to one another. That is why team accountability teambuilding activities can be so important to creating a strong team that trusts one another to fulfill their duties when it matters.

What is Accountability?

Accountability is an obligation to account for your activities, accept responsibility for them and be open about the results of your activities. Accountability depends on reliability as you need to be reliable in order to do the activities you are accountable for.

In order to build trust in a group, you must establish reliability and accountability between the members so each person is willing to act reliably and be accountable if she does something wrong, just as she knows the other people in the group are reliable for their responsibilities and will be held accountable if something goes wrong on their end.

Why Accountability Matters in Business

People tend to look at things from their own perspective and not see how they will directly affect others. That's why they often don't think it matters if they show up to work 10 minutes late or finish their report two days behind schedule. When you introduce the concept of accountability to coworkers, you help make them realize that what they do doesn't just affect them, but can drag their whole team down too.

For example, when someone working a shift job shows up 10 minutes late, he forces the person who worked the shift before him to stay 10 minutes late, which could cause big problems for his coworker if she had anything important scheduled after her shift. Similarly, when someone completes a report two days late, his boss, who was relying on the report in order to complete a presentation offering suggestions for the company's next move, now has two fewer days to compile her presentation and may even have to reschedule the presentation.

It's important for workers to recognize that when they do not act reliably, they are putting the burden on the entire team, not just themselves, and when they do that, they need to hold themselves accountable. This is why everyone in the team needs to strive to avoid mistakes and maximize their performance and productivity so everyone in the team can successfully achieve their goals. And when someone fails the rest of the team, they need to be accountable and take responsibility for their failure, whether that means fixing the mistake, telling a manager or taking some other action to help prevent the blowback from affecting their team members.

Team Accountability Exercises

Because accountability is so important to a group, it is critical that this value is emphasized right off the bat. This can be achieved by working on team accountability exercises as soon as your team is formed and doing additional activities every time a new member is added. Before doing any actual accountability icebreaker games, you should start off by doing accountability introduction exercises that may not be particularly fun, but will begin to emphasize the importance of accountability for everyone in the group.

First, have each person in your group identify themselves not just by name, but also by what role they have in the team and what their skills are. This can help foster a sense of trust and accountability between members as they will start to see that each person in the group has his own role and skill set that will help the team achieve its overall goal. Next, the manager needs to be as explicit as possible about her expectation and requests about the team's assignment, operations and questions. Everyone on the team should know how they fit in, what they need to do, what their deadlines are and how to contact the manager if they have any questions, which will ensure there are no misunderstandings about each person's responsibilities.

The manager also needs to make her responsibilities clear to the group and emphasize that if anyone has any questions or concerns that they can bring these to her. She should also focus on transparency and be willing to fess up to her own shortcomings, because if employees believe that a manager will be held accountable, they are more likely to be accountable themselves. Of course, the manager needs to continue demonstrating her reliability and accountability as time goes on or employees may believe the whole thing was simply an act and start to become unaccountable themselves.

Classic Trust Falls

Trust falls are easily one of the most famous of all accountability teambuilding games, but the message is only as effective as the discussions that go along with the exercise. Sure, having someone fall blindly backward into the arms of another employee is a good way to ensure they trust one another, but it's good to go beyond that to discuss the importance of reliability and accountability.

Before everyone goes, ask if anyone feels they couldn't actually catch their partners safely and emphasize that it's sometimes better to be accountable when we know we are unable to do something rather than let our teams down by trying half-heartedly and failing. This doesn't mean being afraid to approach a major task that might be intimidating, but simply being honest when know they don't have the skills necessary to do something – for example, you don't want to let your partner fall because you injured your wrist earlier that week and can only use one arm. Once you get going, when each person is about to fall, pay attention: if they hesitate or buckle their knees so they can catch themselves in case their teammate fails them, remind them that accountability goes both ways and requires you to actually trust one another.

After the falls are over, ask everyone to think about how important responsibility and focus are in this exercise, since it just takes a minor distraction for the person catching the other to look or turn away during the fall and let their partner fall to the ground. Emphasize that in order for teams to work effectively, everyone must trust each other, focus on their responsibility, be accountable for their actions and be reliable in their duty or they could let each other down.

Traditional Team Sports

Parents are constantly enrolling kids in team sports because they provide such an effective yet fun way to teach teamwork, reliability, accountability, patience and healthy competition. But sports aren't just for kids; they also make quite effective accountability exercises for adults. When organizing team sports for your workplace, first consider if everyone is physically able to participate. If you have a team member in a wheelchair or if you know someone is still recovering from a heart attack, there are other, more suitable exercises out there that won't leave one or more of your group on the sidelines.

As far as the sport, it doesn't really matter what you choose as long as it's something people have to participate in as a team. Soccer, basketball, baseball and volleyball are all good choices; jogging or other individual sports aren't. It's also a good idea to avoid sports that require someone to have prior knowledge of a skill, such as ice hockey, which requires experience ice skating.

While sports are fun on their own, it's important to emphasize your teambuilding message whenever possible. Although the concepts of teambuilding and healthy competition will probably come out naturally, it's important to reiterate the importance of everyone focusing on their task, everyone knowing their role on the team and team members taking responsibility when they make a mistake that hurts the rest of the team.

Hold the Rope

Ask your group to imagine that they are hiking along a massive cliff and they need to climb up a rock face with only a rope keeping them from falling to their death. On the other end of that rope, one person in the group has to help pull them to safety and any slip up could cost them their lives. Be sure to say that the rope is secured through a bunch of pulleys, so body weight and strength are no longer factors. Now ask everyone to write down the name of the person they would want to be holding the rope.

Once everyone writes down the name, then tell them to imagine they have turned the tides and now they're the ones at the top of the rope, everyone else is at the bottom and they must help one other person get to the top. Keeping in mind that strength and body weight aren't factors in this exercise, ask them to write down who they would want to help. Then have everyone read their two names out loud and explain why they would want each person to be on either side of the rope.

Discuss how the person at the top is the person the team member trusts the most and finds the most reliable and dependable. The person at the bottom is likely the person they consider to be the most important in the group. If one person seems to appear on most people's lists consistently, compliment them for being widely considered the most dependable or most important to the most people.

Gutter Ball or Pipeline

In this game, groups compete to get a marble from one side of a field or room to another in the shortest amount of time without letting it touch the floor. Divide your group into teams of four people and give each person a small section of pipe that has been cut in half and they must pass the marble from one to another without dropping it. If it falls, they must go all the way back to the starting line.

The person with the ball can slow it down by tilting it one way or the other before the next section of pipe gets in place, but this isn't easy, so it's important for another person to put their pipe in place as quickly as possible so it can be passed on. You can also make the game more challenging by adding in obstacles in the way of the group like "rivers" of paper that can't be stepped in or adding "mountains" like desks that must be crossed.

After the game is over, remind the team of the importance of stepping into the roles they are required to fill as quickly as possible as well as the importance of acting accountable rather than shifting blame when the ball falls so they can get back to work and try to get back on track as quickly as possible.