Accountability – without it your values are toothless

Why does accountability matter? Because done right, it yields greater profits. Here’s an example of how that works.

Accountability – or the lack of it – is getting a lot of attention these days. It’s fashionable and politically correct to publicly hang someone who committed an act that has devastating effects on his or her organization. The standard line is “they have failed to live our values.”

But rarely are those failures first acts. The people involved have been doing the same thing, albeit on a much smaller scale, for a very long time. With no adverse consequences. In other words, they were not held accountable for living the organization’s values. 

The latest headline worthy example was Brandon Taubman, the assistant general manager of the Houston Astros baseball team. He taunted female journalists who raised questions about Houston signing Roberto Osuna, a pitcher accused of domestic violence. Taubman’s comments were over the top; they created a public relations catastrophe (read, they could cost the Houston organization some serious money). So Taubman was fired on October 24, 2019. The official statement by the Houston organization was: “His (Taubman’s) conduct does not reflect the values of our organization and we believe this is the most appropriate course of action.” Taubman was caught. He was held accountable and punished. Case closed.

Here’s the problem with the Houston Astros (and every other organization that handles things this way).

True accountability should not be confined to punishing wrongdoers. Accountability is about creating a culture of continuous improvement. Accountability is about zero tolerance for failing to live the organization’s stated values – but first transgressions are dealt with as teaching and coaching moments – not punishment. People that screw up can almost always be coached to live the organization’s values. People don’t wake up every morning thinking about ways that they can sabotage their company. They come to work to do a good job. 

Taubman – and thousands of others like him – should have been called out the first time he acted inappropriately. But I’m guessing his previous transgressions took place in private settings, shielded from media attention. So, given his value to the organization, he got a pass. No accountability. 

In a true values-driven organization there are no passes. There are only mistakes to be corrected through more intense training and coaching, public recognition of people that do it right, and the creation of an entire culture composed of people that live their stated values. I know that that is aspirational idealism talking. But it’s the goal to always pursue. 

And when you look at the significant costs, direct and indirect, that any organization incurs when lapses become catastrophes, doing it right is far more cost effective.    

How do you handle people that fail to live your values?

By Bill Leider, Managing Partner, Axíes Group      


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