July 8, 2023

Accountability is a Two-Way Street

Organizations that look to assign blame to individuals for issues that arise face the "water in which many dreams and relationships drown." Instead, leadership must develop a culture of accountability that sets clear expectations where there is no ambiguity about what their workforce must do to succeed. When this environment allows employees to accomplish their assignments, they are responsible for meeting the established expectations, a two-way street of accountability.

As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.

Eighteen Essential Elements

Several years ago, I was part of a group making a benchmarking trip of an organization that successfully transitioned to becoming a lean manufacturing operation.  I vividly remember the company employees' pride as they shared the details of transforming their factory to world-class status.  Something that piqued my interest was the mention of eighteen essential elements to their success.  They did not share the list, so I made mine after returning home.  This week we will begin exploring these alphabetically, starting with accountability.  

Take accountability... Blame is the water in which many dreams and relationships drown. - Steve Maraboli
The Damage of Blaming

Imagine a world where everyone takes Maraboli's advice and takes full accountability for their actions.  A natural human reaction is to shift blame to others when things go awry through what psychology calls a self-serving bias.  As organizations, we lose out when playing the blame game to include:

• Company growth – When organizations are defensive and shut down feedback from others, we cannot learn lessons that can help us grow.

• Our power – We become powerless when allowing a culture of blaming others and failing to take responsibility for our actions.

• Our empathy – Members of a company incapable of sharing true thoughts and emotions by avoiding accountability for their actions inhibits allowing others to accept and listen to how they feel.

• Healthy relationships – Beneficial relationships are unlikely when blaming exists, as sidestepping responsibility to be accountable to others diminishes our organizational potential to thrive.

• Our positive influence on others and yourself – The research found that blaming others is contagious, leading to a tendency for all group members to avoid responsibility.

If we recognize that our culture tends to blame others, building self-esteem in the organization's members is essential to remove this harmful trait.  Additionally, I encourage the mindset of Japanese companies with a lean operations approach that blames the system for failures and never the people.  If people can fail, the likely root cause is a leadership failure to put them in a position to be successful.  

What is Accountability?

If we accept that accountability is essential to organizational success, we must define what this means.  For me, accountability requires creating an environment where the workforce has proper resources with clear expectations for the timely and successful completion of assignments done ethically and transparently.  The organization must implement an effective governance structure with appropriate performance measurements where they monitor the defined metrics and respond as necessary.  The objective is to ensure organizational stakeholders know expectations for responsible behaviors and the consequences of failing to comply.    

Setting the Leadership Example

Success in holding employees accountable for their performance requires exhibiting the type of behaviors as leaders that align with the expectations of others in the organization.  They must meet stated deadlines on time and experience the same consequences that others would face for failing to complete assignments promptly.  It is also essential to set clear expectations to clarify what each person must do to succeed.  Finally, the employees must receive appropriate resources and have the required skill to meet the task requirements.

Mikhail Nilv on Pexels
The Employee Responsibility

Conversely, when the organization's leadership creates an environment that allows employees to accomplish their assignments, the workforce is responsible for meeting the established expectations.  The company must share that continued protection exists to make a lasting commitment to accountability that works for everyone.  For new employees, the company must communicate the requirements for accountability upfront and then follow through on ensuring that those joining the organization comply.  

Changing the Culture

When instituting a more profound commitment to accountability in an existing setting, the leadership must develop a change management plan that clearly defines the transition from the current state to the desired future state.  As with any change, there will be early adopters on one end and those that put up resistance on the other.  In the middle will be most of the employees waiting to see what happens.  Positively recognizing those meeting expectations and enforcing the consequences for failing to comply will be essential in developing a commitment to a culture of accountability.  In addition, the leadership should define their commitment to holding their business to a high standard of verified environmental and social performance, legal responsibility, and public transparency.

Key Takeaway

Organizations that look to assign blame to individuals for issues that arise face the "water in which many dreams and relationships drown."  Instead, leadership must develop a culture of accountability that sets clear expectations where there is clarity about what their workforce must do to succeed.  When this environment allows employees to accomplish their assignments, they are responsible for meeting the established expectations, a two-way street of accountability.    

First Step

Individuals recognizing a need to develop a more profound commitment to organizational accountability can read What Is a Culture of Accountability? (Plus 9 Steps to Build It).  The article does an excellent job of sharing the essential elements of a culture of accountability. There is also a step-by-step plan to develop one that benefits all company stakeholders.  

My Gratitude

A sentiment I have expressed often is my gratitude for having grown up on a farm.  As a farming family member, there are clear expectations of the tasks each person is responsible for that must be done on time.  That characteristic instilled in me from a young age has benefited me in my career.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will shift to a review of the essential element of discipline integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.  

Additional Information  

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.

I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations.  The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers.  You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.

I invite you to join the Humanist Manufacturing Group on  LinkedIn if you want to interact with others interested in the topic.

If you like what you have read, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Please feel free to contact me if you need help with the manufacturing support services of consulting, coaching, Fractional Chief Sustainability Officer, or training/reskilling at 734-664-9076.

See my virtual TEDx videos at Reinventing the Prison Industrial Complex and Humanist Manufacturing.

Feel free to sign up for my newsletter or email me at Contact Me.

Cover Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

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