In a world where accountability often gets lost in the shuffle, “Ted Lasso” brings it to the forefront. It drafts a playbook on how personal responsibility can transform leadership and relationships.

On our most recent episode of our Lens of Leadership Podcast: A Ted Lasso Rewatch Podcast, we (Marnie and Nick – the authors of “Lead It Like Lasso”) explored how embracing accountability is a catalyst for growth and trust.

Leadership is often equated with power and dominance. The concept of an apology can seem out of place. But… this very act of humility and accountability can set the tone for a transformative leadership experience. In S1 | Ep4 For the Children, the “sincere apology” is on full display highlighting its power in accountability.

Spoiler alert:

Flashback to the restroom where Rebecca let’s Keeley know that the other woman (Bex) bidding on Jamie was his other +1.

Keeley calls Jamie a “cheeky little prick” and reduces her thoughts on footballers as – “simple, rich, fit.”

Rebecca asks  What about accountable? …  Everyone makes mistakes, but I was married to a man for 12 years –  who never once took responsibility for any single one of them.

This hits home with Keeley who confronts Jamie. He apologizes – but he has no idea what for.

Meanwhile Roy is annoyed with Keeley about bidding on him in the auction to make Jamie jealous. “Don’t use me as a prop in your little fights.  Made me feel like an idiot.”

Keeley, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.

Roy – Genuinely: “Thanks.”

Jamie: What are you saying sorry to Roy for?

Keeley:  Being accountable matters Jamie.  We’re done.

Rebecca’s reflections on her marriage reveal the destructive cycle of unaccountability. Meanwhile Keeley’s interactions with Jamie and Roy demonstrate the potential for growth when one owns up to their mistakes. It’s not just about saying ‘sorry’—it’s about understanding the impact of our actions and making amends, thereby establishing trust and respect.

We don’t just see the impact of accountability in the show, we (and everyone else) live it everyday. Acknowledging our blind spots is crucial for personal and professional development.

The concept of accountability extends into team dynamics. A culture of accountability can lead to innovation and calculated risk-taking.

4 Strategies around building accountability

  1. Set clear expectations
  2. Use data and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  3. Address non-performance
  4. Emphasize the value of learning from mistakes (and apologizing!)
  5. Consider the role you play in the situation

Accountability is not about punishment or shame—it is about owning our actions and using them as a springboard for improvement. By embracing this principle, leaders can cultivate environments where trust is the cornerstone, and innovation flourishes.

Accountability is a super power (for those that accept it)

Accountability is something that is essential, but also something that a lot of people don’t want.

People who want to get better; and improve…welcome accountability.

People who don’t want to get better; and don’t want to improve.. Don’t want accountability.

Over the course of my career, Nick has worked with 100’s of folks. As he reflected on the notion of accountability, he had this to say:

I’m not sure I realized this for a while, but as I think thru all of my experiences working with other people, it’s clear as day that if there is any one thing that was predictive about the real good employees vs those that were going nowhere (sorry – that doesn’t sound nice – but I believe it to be true) – it’s the principle of accountability.

Level I – Is when folks want to be held accountable.   They have that self-realization that it’s maybe human nature to not always do the right thing and seek out folks to hold them accountable (acccountabilibuddies).

And then there is Level II.  Level II folks have what is to me a somewhat rare trait of being able to govern themselves and owning your actions, decisions and behaviors

And while I think it’s fine to fall in the area of Level I, it’s those at Level II that really excel and level up.

Accountability is not just about admitting mistakes, but also learning from them. It helps to:

  • Repair relationships.   
  • Establish Trust and Reliability
  • Make a Cultural Impact.   Making mistakes are openly discussed and responsibility managed, a culture of accountability is nurtured.
  • Learning and Growth.  Learn from mistakes. Put in controls to make sure this never happens again.

Can you teach or learn accountability?

As Nick mentioned earlier, some people shrink from accountability. Accountability goes beyond admitting mistakes—it’s about owning our role in every situation we encounter. It requires a blend of self-awareness, courage, and a deep commitment to personal growth. Like Ted Lasso, who navigates challenges with a mix of humor, empathy, and straightforwardness, we too can adopt a proactive stance towards accountability.

  • Recognize Your Role: Understand and accept your part in both successes and setbacks.
  • Embrace Feedback: View feedback as a gift that can propel you towards improvement. Foster a culture where open and honest conversations about responsibilities and expectations are the norm.
  • Commit to Change: Accountability isn’t just about acknowledgment; it’s about taking concrete steps to make amends and improve.
  • Self-Reflection: Regularly take stock of your actions and their impact on others.
  • Lead by Example: Be the first to own your mistakes and show how they can be learning opportunities.

Conclusion:

In a world of AI and automation, it’s the distinctly human qualities like accountability that set us apart. By holding ourselves accountable, we model the integrity, empathy, and resilience that define truly effective leadership.

Accountability might challenge us, but there are rewards. It builds trust, fosters respect, and drives us to be better leaders and humans. Let’s take a page from Ted Lasso’s playbook and make accountability a cornerstone of our personal and professional lives.

Recommendations to learn more:

  • “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown
  • “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek
  • “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle
  • “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck
  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do I currently handle accountability in my personal and professional life?
  2. What steps can I take to foster a culture of accountability within my team?
  3. How does my response to mistakes shape my leadership style?
  4. In what ways can I improve my approach to feedback?

What role does trust play in my understanding of accountability?