Someone recently asked me about keeping a company’s culture positive while also holding people accountable for results. It was a great question and I had to think for a moment about how to give a response that would not be taken in a negative way. The more I thought about the question, the more I realized that accountability is what creates a positive culture.
I have seen many leaders fail at trying to improve the culture of the work place. They have the right plan and they tend to all start moving in the right direction, but then fail to follow through on the most important piece: Accountability.
I have seen the “company picnic” for large and small companies, the back to school events for teachers, bonuses paid, pats on the back, donuts on Friday, public recognition, and many other acts to help improve the culture of the workplace. I have also hosted these events for my team and I believe it is an integral piece of raising staff morale, but I do not believe these activities hold any long term value for improving culture. I do believe the above listed items are a very important part of raising your team’s morale, but it is not the answer to a long term culture shift.
Curing the Culture is not easy. Planning fun events is easy if you have funding to do it or a charismatic leader that naturally brings people together. Again, these things are important! Where the work begins is after the party. It includes being visible, knowing your people, understanding their life in and out of the workplace, building trust, and giving face time. It also includes the element of accountability. Accountability is holding everyone to the same standard. A culture shift then occurs after you can give true, honest, and critical feedback.
Look at the education system for example. Two teachers have the same tenure and equal paychecks. One teacher works extremely hard, has a positive influence, and gets results. The other teacher does the minimum amount of work, goes through the day in neutral, and speaks negatively about the system. This is where the leader must make a conscious decision to make a culture shift. The leader can keep doing the “company picnic,” stop there and continue to allow mediocrity, or begin the process of holding others accountable. This is the exact point where you see change.
I once heard a speaker say that no one likes accountability. I disagree. I know that the best employees want accountability. They know they are doing the job well and don’t mind being held accountable, but most importantly they are drawn to the leader who holds the mediocre employee accountable at the same level as the high performer. Several things will begin to transpire while curing the culture through accountability. Good employees become great and mediocre employees either step it up or find a way out (or you help them out). As this sets in, the culture will start to slowly shift. Employees will begin to hold themselves accountable as well as holding their peers more accountable. They are now supporting the leader due to his or her commitment to the individual person, as well as the company as a whole.
In our experiences, we have seen accountability act as the turning point of curing the culture in the workplace.