As a Navy SEAL, you learn the discipline of accountability from day one. You hold yourself and your teammates to the highest expectations. The same thing applies to high performance teams in any environment. After leaving the SEAL teams, going to grad school and becoming an entrepreneur, I quickly realized that a culture of accountability is critical for any company’s success.
Accountability matters as much as anything else people do on the job. It means that every single team member has made a personal commitment to meeting or exceeding the company’s goals. It’s not a bullet point on a job description but rather a mentality embodied by all. In this environment, employees never stop asking themselves, “What else can I do to ensure that I am performing at optimal levels?”
To be successful, building and protecting the right culture isn’t an option, its an absolute necessity. An organizational culture is either decisively created and nurtured from the very beginning, or more typically, it comes about haphazardly through the experiences, beliefs, behaviors and actions of those on the team.
Either way, accountability has to be real. If I make a mistake or drop the ball, its not just about owning up to it. I must learn from tho
se mistakes to ensure I am changing my behavior and holding myself personally accountable.
Every case study I have ever read on this subject, points to the same thing. A culture of accountability has a direct correlation to improving the bottom line. Nothing else matters without it. Constantly pouring over your financial data does not. Improving systems and processes does not. New technology. Increasing sales. Nothing. Because if people don’t really care enough and are not holding themselves and others accountable, the execution of duties will falter anyway.
When leaders within organizations discuss accountability and how to improve in this area, it often has a negative connotation. As if accountability is only about what punishments to roll out when people screw up. That’s not it at all. It’s about creating a positive work environment with clearly desired results and a team with the empowerment and resources to achieve those results.
Here are six steps for working towards building a culture of accountability.
1. Demand participation
Building a culture of accountability has to start with alignment at the very top. Total team buy-in will not happen without this. The leaders must be on board and lead by example.
2. Define the decision-makers
When it comes to culture, a leader-led model is best. Decision by committee is too complicated. This goes back to participation and alignment. The leaders need to define amongst themselves who will own the various elements and activities for improving accountability.
3. Get feedback
While the leaders need to be providing direction regarding the culture and values of the organization, it is critical to get feedback in order to make the best possible decisions. The team’s voice must be heard. They will have great ideas!
4. Extreme Ownership
The leaders must set the tone, but all must take ownership over the decisions made. The same thing applies in the military as it does in business. When the orders are given, be sure to get feedback from the team (when applicable), make the necessary adjustments, and then get to work. At some point, everyone needs to be a team player and simply say “roger that.”
It takes a consistent and deliberate effort to build a culture of accountability. Consistency of messaging, behavior, and holding all to the same standards.
This is the most important of all. Without follow-through, any initiatives you put in place to improve the culture won’t take hold and nobody will truly believe in the mission.
All said and done it really comes down to one thing. Personal accountability. The more time we spend holding ourselves accountable for doing our jobs, achieving our goals, and supporting our team members, the less time we have to spend holding other accountable. This improves speed, efficiency, profitability and morale.
To start taking steps towards building a culture of accountability, I suggest reading “Change the Culture, Change the Game” by Roger Connors and Tom Smith.