A Culture of Accountability: What is it and how can we create it?

Nearly every leader that I work with shares a common issue, and that is in building and creating a culture of accountability that is comprised of engaged employees. What exactly is a culture of accountability? Turns out, not many people know. In 2015, the number one word searched in online dictionaries was “culture.” Today in 2017, culture remains a top issue in boardrooms as well.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a training workshop on culture through my work at Vistage and our partnership with TalenTrust. The workshop focused on ways to build a culture of engaged employees – the end goal for almost all organizational leaders today. Why? Engaged employees create significantly stronger outcomes for customers and companies, are much less likely to quit or resign (thereby saving companies millions of dollars) and overall make THE distinguishing factor between a good company and a great one.
First, what is culture? TalenTrust defines culture as the character and personality of your organization. It’s what makes your organization unique and is the sum of several factors:
  • Values
  • Traditions
  • Beliefs
  • Interactions
  • Behaviors
  • Attitudes
What makes these components of culture challenging to address is that employees may have different takes on the meaning of these terms…i.e., what one person may think is a value may be ‘just how I do things’ to someone else and so on. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to have a strategic process in place to manage and proactively build a strong culture at your company.
To stand out from your competitors, TalenTrust recommends a 4-step “Culture Branding Process”:
Step 1: Define & Measure
Step 2: Assess & Report
Step 3: Enhance & Promote
Step 4: Evaluate & Evolve
There is no shortage of tools and assessments in the market today to get a pulse of what your employees think of your culture. Regardless of which method you choose, the main idea is to make culture-driven decisions based upon data, not upon your instinct. If you want to keep it really simple, TalenTrust recommends a survey monkey quiz, leveraging Gallup Poll’s 12 most important questions to assess for employee engagement:
  1. Do you know what is expected of you from the company?
  2. Do you have the materials and equipment needed to contribute to the company?
  3. Do you have the opportunity to contribute what you do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for your contributions?
  5. Does your leader seem to care about you as a person?
  6. Is there someone in the company who encourages your development?
  7. Do your opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel important?
  9. Are your co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do you have a strong support system at work?
  11. In the last six months, has your leader talked to you about your progress?
  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?
These are excellent questions that I plan to use in my coaching and peer groups as we grow and acquire new members too.
Unfortunately, too many leaders view the idea of an engaged workplace as doing “too much” for employees and conversely, see accountability as punishment. This is a limiting view that can really hold companies back in our global marketplace today.
My view is not that of either/or, or that doing for people is “good” or holding people accountable is bad or wrong. I believe that with more engaged employees, a leader has a greater opportunity to hold employees accountable. My mentor coach has said that accountability is a mindset, not a punishment. I wholeheartedly agree. Creating a culture of accountability and engagement is a choice which requires intentional and strategic thinking. It’s a decision leaders must make each day for their employees and themselves.
When a company is recognized as a “Top 100” company or best place to work, it’s the result of a series of decisions made daily in support of building that coveted culture of accountability and engaged employees. Success in this area, like so many aspects of leadership is not an overnight proposition. We just have to begin.
Thanks to my peers at Vistage and our partners at TalenTrust for an exceptional workshop to better equip us in our journey as leaders and culture creators.
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