I’m on a quest to help companies create an accountability culture. I believe a lack of accountability is affecting many company's ability to grow revenue, keep customers, and retain high performing employees. My quest to understand why creating a culture of accountability is so difficult led me to a place I didn’t expect - the realization that accountability is very closely tied to vulnerability.
After recently listening to Brene Brown’s TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” I needed to know more, so I got her book by the same name.
Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” She also states that “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity”.
She says, in her book, that accountability is very simple, 3 things:
1. Authenticity - This is what I did
2. Action - This is how I’m going to fix it
3. Amends - I will make amends
Brown shared that when she goes into a corporation she can tell immediately what the culture is like regarding what happens when people screw up. Is there finger pointing and blame or is there accountability, which requires vulnerability. You have to be able to say you were wrong, I made a mistake or I don’t know without the fear of humiliation or retaliation.
In order for employees to be willing to be held accountable, or better yet, hold themselves accountable; managers and executives will need to create a safe place for their employees to be able to make a mistake, own it, and move on. This type of environment is built on trust. Trust that an employee will not be publically shamed, embarrassed, or threatened if they make a mistake, lose a deal, or forget to reply to an important email.
So how is this trust built between a company/manager and an employee? Easily.
- Start by clearly communicating what you and the company expect from the employees.
- Tell them what they can expect from you and the company.
- Discuss together how you should handle a situation where either of you feels expectations haven’t been met. You need to do this before something happens.
- Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. This is a very fast trust builder.
- Take action on employees that are chronic accountability dodgers. Nothing is more frustrating for employees as when they are walking their talk when someone else isn’t and it isn't addressed by management.
- Get personal. Get to know your employees and share personal things about yourself. Everyone is struggling with something. Letting an employee know you care about them and not just what they can do for the company is important.
As Brown says, “There’s a lot to unpack here” regarding accountability, trust, and vulnerability. I would encourage everyone to take 20 minutes in the next 24 hours to listen to Brown’s TED talk. Then take steps to start to build trust with an employee, co-worker, or boss that you feel like you’d like to have a stronger relationship with.