Creating a Culture of Accountability

accountabilityThe question: “How do I create a culture of accountability?”

I recently was asked this excellent question from a class attendee and consulting client. It may be a question that you have asked.

Let’s start with the word culture. Culture is defined as a set of commonly occurring behaviors which occur within your organization. I have observed four common behaviors in organizations whose culture includes a high degree of accountability:

1. Clearly defined expectations.

2. Clearly stated consequences of not meeting expectations.

3. Role modeling of expectations.

4. Strictly enforced expectations.

In our Achieving World-Class Results class taught at Pal’s BEI, we share a proven process for clearly defining expectations and consequences. Ideally, this occurs during the employee’s orientation and includes information that clearly states the expectations in a way that eliminates any ambiguity and clearly explains what occurs when expectations are not met.

Role modeling expectations should be done by all organizational employees at all times, with a particular emphasis on supervisors and managers serving as role models of the organizations’ stated expectations.

Two of the major systems a manager uses to enforce organizational expectations are coaching and progressive discipline. To an extent, all organizations have incorporated these two systems into their structure. If it is true that all organizations use coaching and progressive discipline to an extent, then what do organizations that have a culture with a high degree of accountability do differently? The answer is: it is the extent and completeness to which they apply their coaching and progressive discipline systems.

High accountability organizations have well-designed consequence systems that are consistently, strictly, and fairly applied in every situation to every employee from the top down. For example, these organizations coach people in a way that enables them to immediately realign with the organizational standard each time there is even the slightest variation.

Another example is in progressive discipline. Progressive discipline means discipline that systematically progresses in a predictable manner using a well-defined process from low-level consequences— oral warnings— to high level consequences—termination. High accountability organizations apply it consistently, strictly, and fairly to everyone.

Working with leaders who take their next steps toward becoming more extraordinary is one of the favorite parts of my job. It is exhilarating to address the questions class attendees or consulting clients ask. As asking questions is one of the indicators that shows they are focused on tackling what is required in order to take their next step to being more extraordinary leaders.

It is also a pleasure for McClaskey Excellence Institute to be included in the learning process where leaders and managers discern the next step to take to be more extraordinary. Everything we talk about in class and in consulting is part of the real world since it is based on what Baldrige-winning Pal’s Sudden Service and other world-class organizations do every day.

As part of the blogs I write, some will focus on the many insightful questions asked by class attendees as well as during consulting sessions. I welcome any questions you have regarding this blog post, implementing operational excellence, or McClaskey Excellence Institute. Simply submit them through the contact page.