A good culture creates an environment where all staff unde‍‍‍rstand what is expected of them; in essence, they understand “the way we do things around here”. Accountability is central to a good culture; it focuses staff on working collectively towards the achievement of shared and common goals.

When presenting cultural accountability solutions to potential clients, I often hear co‍‍‍mments such as “while I wholeheartedly agree it is what we need, our organisation is not yet ‘mature’ enough to hold staff accountable for their behaviour”. It puzzles me when I hear this. What exactly does “not mature enough” mean when asking staff to be accountable for the positive demonstration of specific behaviours? All we are asking is that staff practically demonstrate the organisation’s desired culture.

For leaders who believe their organisation is not mature enough for a program that centres around accountability, a question remains; How do you propose to mature your organisational workforce, without holding staff to account for a specific set of agreed behaviours and deliverables?

It is not uncommon for strong leaders to recognise the symptoms of a poor culture, but in my experience, many have difficulties dealing with staff demonstrating undesirable behaviours. These behaviours may include:

  • resisting or avoiding processes that meet quality, safety or financial compliance requirements,
  • failing to follow through on agreed tasks
  • persisting with undesirable or very personalised actions that are contrary to the desired cultural requirements, or
  • using resources to chase outcomes that focus on self-interest rather than what is in the best interests of the organisation.

All too often, these behaviours are evident in blame cultures. Staff cite an array of reasons why it was not their fault that they could not deliver on key organisational objectives or work collectively toward a common purpose.

The irony in comments such as “not being mature enough” is that, if you want to change from a blame culture to a performance culture, you need accountability measures in place. Focusing on accountability is essential to re-socialise – or normalise – the new performance behaviours, i.e. the cultural foundations. It is those very organisations that cite “our organisation is not mature enough for staff to hold one another accountable”, that require the accountability measures in order to mature!  

Let’s put this into perspective

Holding staff accountable to one another, for the positive demonstration of key cultural behaviours, will mature individuals and build a strong sense of self-worth. These cultural behaviours are also inexplicably linked to your organisation’s performance outcomes.

The outcome of implementing accountability measures results in a happy, achievement orientated workplace focused on realising the organisations purpose: a mature workplace.­

­For example, high performing people who train for sports, learn how to sing or learn a new art, first have to become uncomfortable before they can achieve. For many of us, we repeatedly try to eat better, train more frequently, visit the gym more often. But the right intention soon fades away in lieu of seeking the comfort of our old behaviours. Success is only achieved when we include accountability measures in our desire to change and this provides us with the greatest chance of realising our goals which in turns increases our individual self-worth.  

Our likelihood of success is also enhanced if we have a buddy, someone to train with, to collective agree the outcomes and to work together to achieve our goals. Anyone who has achieved a weight loss goal or a training goal of some kind, experiences an elevated sense of achievement and pride.  However, reaching the goal requires some type of accountability measure to help us through the early days when we want to revert back to our old habits and behaviours.  The reward for being held accountable is the sense of achievement we feel when we reach our goals.

Could your immaturity actually be caused by personalisation?

It has been my experience that organisations reluctant to implement cultural accountability measures have a “default” culture that is highly Personalised.  Personalised refers to a focus on individual self-interest; What’s in it for me, what will make me happy and what is the organisation doing for me? In a culture that is highly personalised, staff claim entitlement to individual benefit regardless of whether the organisation achieves its goals. This is in stark contrast with performance cultures, as the focus is on how individuals can help the organisation achieve its purpose and goals. In mature, performance cultures, individual benefit is a derivative of collective success.

Personalisation is a movement that has risen over time and in order to change direction away from it, leaders need to refocus staff on achieving collective goals.  Why? Because when staff are focussed on having their own personal needs met, they will fast become disappointed as no organisation can meet the personal needs of all staff.  

So instead, organisations focus on asking staff what makes them happy without any developed understanding of what constitutes a “happy” workforce.  Let’s make it clear that a happy workforce is not based on meeting the personal needs of every individual. Attempts to placate individuals will always result in the opposite; When the promised delivery of a personal need is not met, as perceived by the staff member, job dissatisfaction, stress, claims of depression and sick leave increases.

The research on what constitutes a “happy” workforce consistently identifies two key contributing factors: staff experiencing a sense of achievement and staff having a sense of connection with their peers.  It was not about having any of their personal needs fulfilled.

So, I leave you with this...

Organisations suffering from highly personalised cultures require their leadership to facilitate a shift in their cultural direction. This change in direction needs to focus staff on holding one another accountable for the positive demonstration of behaviours, which help everyone achieve and connect with both the organisation’s workforce and purpose. Happiness and wellbeing will automatically follow.

You cannot mature an organisation to be ready to hold one another accountable: holding one another accountable is what matures an organisation. Therefore, to realise a happy, connected, achievement orientated workplace culture requires a cultural disruption and reset: an accountable workforce.

Watch out for our next article which will look at the behaviours present in organisations that have little cultural accountability built onto the “way we do things around here” verses the behaviours that are present in organisations whereby staff work collectively to achieve the organisations shared and common goals. The results will astound you.

Article written by Su‍‍‍e Jauncey: Pulse Founder, Global Chief Product Officer and registered psychologist.

Immaturity is a poor excuse for failing to hold everyone accountable for your success.

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