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Accountability – how to make it real

Photo by Josh Calabrese

For most of us, from early childhood, being accountable was associated with being punished for doing the wrong thing – if and when we were caught. As adults, we still feel the same. That belief is not aligned with what being accountable means – at least not in a business environment.

So, step one:Get rid of the belief that accountability is connected to punishment. Replace that dysfunctional belief with a new one. Being accountable is about continuous improvement.Accountability is about continuously learning and practicing and living up to your full potential.

As leaders, creating a culture of accountability means identifying any and all behaviors that contradict what you stand for – and use that discovery to teach and coach and monitor and measure performance against those standards. 

In referring what you stand for, I’m talking about your values – your non-negotiable beliefs; your promise to the world about what you are willing to be held accountable for living. Those promises are judged by the values you actually live – they are not simply words on wall plaques. 

Those values turned inward define your culture. And what is your culture?Itis the collective whole of what you do and why you do it – shaped and defined by the values you live. 

Step two:Choose the right values. What are the right values? How will you know if your choices are good ones?

Let’s begin by describing your (or any) organization at its organic level. Any organization is a collection of some people and some assets, glued together by your purpose and made sustainable by your relevance. Lose your relevance and you’re headed for extinction – at any size. Think Sears, ToysRUs.   

You have a business model. You have strategic objectives. You deliver something of value to your customers. Hopefully it is unique enough to give you some competitive edge and it helps you stay relevant. You have employees. They do the heavy lifting. They are also the source of new ideas, new ways of thinking and doing. If not, they should be. You treat your customers and, hopefully, your employees with respect. And beyond growing your sales and earnings, you have a greater purpose – a reason for being that will define your legacy.

What values support all of that? What behaviors must you mandate to create your culture, to propel your organization to believe and achieve at a level of excellence that has you performing at your absolute peak?

Answering those questions will tell you what your values must be. Your values reflect your choices. You are not bound by your past beliefs and ingrained habits. You can change them any time you choose.

Of course, we’re not finished. We’ve just described the first couple of steps. There will be more to come in our next blogs. 

To some of you, this blog might seem preachy, even pedantic. If it is, why do so many large organizations completely miss the fundamental premises? How and why did Wells Fargo miss the boat? Why did Uber go completely off the rails – and continues to do so while proclaiming that they’re on the right track? And if the big guys missed it so badly what about all the smaller companies? What about yours?   

By Bill Leider, Managing Partner, Axíes Group      

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