Build a Culture of Accountability

Debra WheatmanBy: Debra Wheatman

Debra Wheatman, CPRW, CPCC is president of Careers Done Write, a premier career-services provider focused on developing highly personalized career roadmaps for senior leaders and executives across all verticals and industries. Debra may be contacted directly at debra@careersdonewrite.com. Visit her site at: careersdonewrite.com. Follow Debra on Twitter

Employees demand consistency, transparency, and accountability from their employers and their colleagues. If you strive to be a world-class organization, establishing a culture of accountability at all levels is critical to long-term growth and sustainable success. Employees who expect to be held accountable for their actions are more likely to think before they react and demonstrate better decision-making skills. So how do you build a culture of accountability? One of the first steps is to encourage a culture free of blame. Below are three ideas to help steer your company in this direction.

  1. Emphasize the fact that mistakes will happen. A culture of accountability should recognize the fact that everyone in the organization from top to bottom will make mistakes. The vast majority of employees want to do well; they want to exceed expectations; they genuinely want and strive to do their best. However, if a company is not realistic when it comes to mistakes, a culture of cover-up and avoidance can ensue, allowing small problems to fester into unnecessarily big and potentially damaging issues. Avoid this as a manager by demonstrating a realistic attitude toward mistakes that encourages your staff to speak up when something goes wrong.
  2. Focus on collective success but highlight exceptional individual contributions. If your team or your organization experiences success, recognize that the sum of the parts contributed to the overall successful outcome. No business win, deal closure, or new client sale can be attributed to just one person all the time – the contributions from many people behind the scenes drive the majority of successes within a complex and growing business. Of course, where individuals have gone above and beyond resulting in a positive outcome, highlight that individual’s success to motivate others to reach the same level of excellence.
  3. Eliminate systemic errors; automate & streamline. A culture of accountability requires that system-driven errors are identified and eliminated as soon as operationally possible. Employees need to know that errors that occur outside of their control will be addressed through a formal continuous improvement process. Nothing is more of a morale-killer than for an employee to be assigned blame for a flawed computer system or infrastructure issue.

A no-blame culture is indeed the first step toward building an organization that solves problems and pushes forward rather than scrutinizing past issues or errors. You will find that in a corporate culture that encourages a forward thinking approach focused on “just getting things fixed,” employees will be more forthcoming to accept personal accountability that benefit the entire organization.

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