Cultivating A Culture of Accountability

We’ve all heard the quote, “Mistakes have been made, others will be blamed.” This reflects a dysfunctional corporate culture which will prevent the business from reaching its full potential.

Early in my career, I worked for a company whose operations were run by a retired police chief. He had years of command experience and had learned how to get the best from his junior officers. He used most instances where a problem arose as teaching moments. He brought this acumen into his operations role with excellent results. Employees learned from their mistakes and were empowered to act knowing that someone had their backs and would teach them rather than punish them for a mistake.

Mistakes and miscues are inevitable. It’s the response to those mistakes which creates a culture of growth and accountability or a culture of fear, paralysis and bitterness. Management sets the tone for the organization. A CEO who stands before her employees and admits a mistake, takes responsibility and plans a corrective measure will engender respect and cooperation.

This aspect of corporate culture is often overlooked today where a sense of urgency permeates the workplace. Training is often inadequate, and supervisors believe themselves too busy to spend time developing their direct reports. This is deadly. Urgency is not scurrying around the office in a constant state of agitation, Time must be taken to efficiently analyze a challenge and plan and execute a response. All stakeholders in the issue should be involved and their input considered.

This creates a culture of accountability. A teaching moment includes several pieces. First a review of the situation and where the mistake was made Is required. The manager must teach the correct action for future reference. The final piece is instilling the expectation of accountability for performing that task correctly in the future.

When employees are comfortable that they won’t be punished for common mistakes, they take more ownership of their role and accountability for their actions. Management should recognize and reward employees’ initiative which fosters a desire to excel and a willingness to be accountable for their performance. This helps to create a content and productive workplace.