The Accountability Advantage…Fixing a Broken Corporate Culture

Here is perhaps the ultimate accountability challenge: Suppose you were called on to turn around a company in crisis. How would you do it?

There never seems to be any shortage of firms experiencing challenges that connect to a deficit of accountability. The most recent, glaring example is probably Boeing, whose CEO just departed following a series of major problems related to internal safety concerns that were withheld from regulators and others. The plane in question, the 737 Max, was subsequently involved in two crashes, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives.

This is a dark time for Boeing. Suffice to say that the company is in turmoil at the moment. Its employees have experienced a major failure of leadership, and some of them have doubtless been feeling demotivated, jaded, and cynical for some time. The working culture is in crisis. If you were tasked with the responsibility of leading this company out of that crisis and into stability, how would you do it?

Here is what I would do. I would bring everyone together. I would gather all the employees into one place (or as many of them as I could assemble) — at a ballpark like the Seattle Kingdome, say–and I would deliver an important message in person. That message would sound something like the following:

“Right now, we are the most technologically advanced aircraft manufacturer in the world. We have the ability to make and deliver absolutely unbelievable products. That much is not in question. We are, beyond any debate, great at building airplanes. But here is the issue. I do not believe we have yet built the kind of organization that you can be deeply proud to work for. Not only that. Given what has happened over the past year, I would not blame you if you do not feel that pride. So, what we are going to focus on now is creating an organization you can be proud of. We are going to work together to make Boeing the kind of company that you love to tell people you work for, and that you simply cannot wait to show up to work for each morning. That is my commitment to you. Together, you and I are going to make Boeing that kind of workplace. And the way I am going to do that is by focusing on living three vitally important things: our Purpose, our Mission, and our Values. Living those three things is what makes a working culture special. It is what makes a culture of commitment possible. Now, I realize that every culture of commitment must start with a commitment from the leadership. So my personal commitment to you is to live the right Mission, to live the right Purpose, and to live right the Values–first. That is the best and the only way to build an organization that everyone can be proud of. And once we make that happen, the sky really will be the limit for us.”

When a leader says that kind of thing, means it, and then follows through, people are inspired to follow his or her example. That is the Accountability Advantage. And that is the advantage you need if it is your job to lead a troubled team, or indeed any team.

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July 2020
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