Building an Accountable Workplace Culture

One of the most common questions I hear from leaders is: How do we build an accountable workplace culture?

The answer is simple…  but it is not easy. In fact, the answer to this question gives us a textbook example of why simple principles often take immense amounts of time, energy, and effort to implement. The simple answer is as follows.

To build an accountable workplace culture, you first design it. How do you design your workplace culture? Through your values. Your values are the house rules. Values must be consciously chosen and they must be authentic to your organization. They should not be cut and pasted from some other organization’s values. They should be yours.  Your values must say to everyone in the organization, “This is how we do it here.” Everyone in leadership must model the values that leadership chooses to live and evangelize.

In every decision, ;leadership must live the values. If one of your values is Trust, then it does not matter what we produce, it does not matter what your title is, it does not matter where you sit on the org chart: You cannot make a decision that undermines the value of Trust. Period. That has to start at the top.

Everyone must live the values. That is a condition of employment. You live and model the values with every decision, and you teach the values to each and every individual. And when people come into the organization, they see the values in action. If they choose to buy into those values and protect them, they get to stay on. If they do not buy into and protect those values, they have to leave.

You are continuously modeling, teaching, and protecting the values in every discussion, every meeting, and every communication, regardless of the platform on which that communication takes place. Whenever you protect the values, you protect the workplace culture. Typically, you protect the workplace culture through living the values in your relationships with people, so they are inspired to live the culture… and you protect it by noticing when people are not living the values. At that point, you as the leader must make an effort to coach them up to a point where they can and will live the values. If that effort fails, then you have to let them go somewhere else, somewhere their behavior will be accepted.

Sometimes it takes courage to defend the culture, but the alternative is disaster. When you allow people who are refusing to live the values to stay in your organization, because you are afraid of being unable to hire other people, or because you do not like starting uncomfortable conversations, or because you believe that people will not like you if you defend the culture, or for whatever reason, then you no longer have a culture by design. You have a culture by default, and you have sent a message to everyone in your organization that “anything goes here and we no longer believe those values. All you have to do is (fill in the blank:)  be pretty, produce, be related to the right person, have tenure, whatever, and you do not have to live the values.” That is not the way to go.

Once you identify the values that support your culture, it is important to celebrate it every chance you get: with teams, with individuals, for little victories, for big victories. An accountable workplace culture is precious. As the leader, you need to deliver positive reinforcement every time there is success, big or small, so that everyone in the organization will be motivated to continue and repeat that success.

When you protect the workplace culture you make a better place to work for everyone. This is what attracts the best people and creates the desire within those people to stay. Building an accountable workplace culture takes effort — but the quality of that culture will always show up on the bottom line.

Contact me directly to learn more about how you can identify, evangelize, and celebrate the unique values that will deliver an accountable working culture at your organization.

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September 2021
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