The Power of Peer Accountability

The world needs more people who nudge each other. People who call each other out when things are not good AND who lift each other up when things go well. As I travel around the globe and work with various clients, I’ve noticed an alarming trend. There aren’t as many people who are comfortable nudging a teammate. Of all the various forms of accountability that exist, none is greater than peer accountability.

There is something very potent about one co-worker telling another co-worker, “I’ve noticed that something has been up with you lately.” Or. “That’s not like you. Is their anything I can do to help?” Or simply. “(Name), I am here for you.”

True caring

Let’s imagine that you and I are co-workers. We work together in the same place, during the same shift. You are usually a top performer. The team loves you, and the customers love you even more. Lately, however, things have changed a bit. You’re not being as thorough as you usually are in your work. You’ve been coming in late more frequently. Overall, you have been less than your best self. Now, here is the million-dollar question: Who will notice your lack of performance first? The manager, the customer, or me (the co-worker)?

Yes, the co-worker almost always sees it first…long before anyone else.

Let’s be clear: If I work with you, and I notice you have been slipping lately…and I don’t say anything to you…that means that I don’t care about you. Or, I don’t care about you enough to say something. If I cared about you, I would want to see you at your best. If I cared about you, I would not be content with myself if I didn’t nudge you in some way.

If I am walking around with spinach in my teeth, and you don’t nudge me, you must not care that much about me. Sure, you might like me. Sure, we might talk about the football game. Sure, we might laugh about that new TV show. But if you don’t nudge me…you don’t care about me.

Two servers

Many years ago, when I was a fine-dining server, one incident helped shape my outlook on peer accountability. First, it is important for me to note that we worked in a restaurant where the average dinner check for two people was $600. EVERYTHING had to be impeccable. From the food to the décor to the service.

One evening, some guests came in who were locals. I quickly realized that I knew the couple! We all went to the same high school. So I immediately lowered all sense of professionalism and became super-casual. Blatantly dismissing all of the world-class training I had received. I became too informal and relaxed. At the end of the evening, my co-worker told me how disappointed he was in me. He told me that he saw how I lowered my standards and how that is the mark of an amateur. He told me that, as a professional, I must be exceptional all the time. My teammate said that I can’t just lower my standards when I am serving someone I know. If anything, he continued, I should provide even better service because I could then customize the experience more since I know them.

At first, the feedback stung. It really stung. But the next day I came back to work and told him, “Thank you”. I thanked him for caring enough to say something. I had the sense that he would have lost sleep that night if he DIDN’T say something to me. Now, that is true teamwork. That is true caring. Everything else is superficial and disingenuous. Nothing in the workplace is greater than one co-worker holding another co-worker accountable.

Commit today that you will nudge and accept being nudged when needed. Help each other, encourage each other, and yes, nudge each other to a culture of service excellence.

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