I came across a great quote by NASA’s Daryl Woods about teamwork in Jay Bilas’ new book, Toughness.

“Responsible to the element, accountable to the mission.”

Bilas, a former Duke basketball star under Mike Krzyzewski, simply said “Wow” when including this quote in his chapter on Communication.  Bilas talks about the importance of communicating on defense and commiting to stopping an opponent from scoring as a team instead of focusing on just covering your man.  It’s a team defense philosophy of “five as one” versus “five as five.”

When I first read this quote, I was struck by the words element and mission.  Element is about each player’s unique role, job, and contribution to the team, while mission is about the big picture, culture and philosophy, and common goals everyone is working toward.

But the more I read it, the words responsible and accountable started to pop out more.  I think what Woods is really saying is that true teamwork is made up of a group of people who simulataneously hold themselves responsible for doing an excellent job individually as well as accountable to his teammates for how his work contributes to the ultimate success of the organization.

“Responsible to the element, accountable to the mission.”

Responsibility is about trust, reliability, and dependability.  Accountability is about loyalty, commitment, and not letting each other down.

For true teamwork to take place, be responsible to yourself and accountable to others.