Expectations, RACI & the Beautiful Game

We know performance is linked to expectations. And yet, according to Gallup (Feb, 2023) just '48% of US workers know what's expected of them at work.' So, as agency leaders, we need to ask: are the account teams crystal clear on their expectations?


Our research presents significant evidence that it’s not at all clear when it comes to higher-order, strategically-grounded expectations for Account teams. In some instances, expectations are visibly inconsistent. In others, there are no real expectations for higher order work and thinking. Neither is helpful for the agency or the client, especially when the teams are capable of contributing more.


One way to quickly align and clarify an elevated set of expectations is to use the RACI model, a great tool for clarifying roles and responsibilities in cross-functional projects (RACI = Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed). But for the purpose of Advancing Client Leadership, we mustn’t be lulled into an overly simplistic view of Accountability and Responsibility.


According to the generalized rules of a RACI, one person/team should be designated as Accountable, or it gets confusing. Agreed. But too many examples (and some that I’ve seen with my own eyes) show just one letter in each field, which means the person/team that’s Accountable is not also Responsible for the work. And, the definitions associated with Accountable often suggest this person/team is ‘delegating’ and then ‘reviewing the work to ensure completion of the task.’ That might be fine in other industries, but for our discipline, that’s not client leadership, it’s box checking. And we’re not about that.


As a sports fanatic, I love thinking of advertising as a team sport. So in honor of Women’s World Cup Soccer (happening this month), I thought we could take some inspiration from what fans call the Beautiful Game.  


There’s a continuous flow and fluidity to soccer that’s unique in sports, and beautiful to watch. While players have specific on-field roles and responsibilities for which they’re held accountable, the collaboration and ability to flex and adapt based on the flow of the game is what’s relevant here. It’s a quintessential example of teamwork with shared effort, responsibility and contribution. 


We’re in the business of ideas. We should plan for the flow and fluidity of shared responsibility and contribution that’s unique to the business/sport of advertising.


Account teams can own Accountability, but real leadership happens when we also share the Responsibility of doing and contributing to the work. That’s how to learn, grow, lead and influence with confidence and authenticity. Seeing that R/A designation on a RACI matrix is a signal of intent, strength and an important demonstration of value. And that is a beautiful thing.






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