Our friends at Revitalization Partners help companies make better decisions about business operations. This blog from their newsletter focuses on the benefits of a culture of personal accountability at work. At Juniper Capital, we are committed to sharing business advice that helps you achieve business success. We specialize in real estate investments with private money loans in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Share your thoughts on this blog, so we can continue to provide you with quality information for operating your business in the Pacific Northwest:

There is a telling TV commercial currently being broadcast. It shows a father walking off of a sporting field holding the hand of a child. The child is has a trophy that displays the title “Participant.” The man shakes his head and thinks, “Participant! They won every game.” He pulls off the title and writes in “Champion.”

This commercial demonstrates a major shift in our attitude as a society. A shift that echoes through our workforce. And when those shifts occur, we often find our organizations suffer from a crisis of personal accountability. This makes changing or bolstering a culture of accountability difficult and prolonged. To deal with such a crisis, current leaders and managers often revert to old-fashioned command and control structures to drive accountability within an organization. They simply expect and demand accountability, but do not engage in it.

In business and in much of life, we are not just participants. There are winners and those who do not win. There are those who succeed in business and those who fail. It is important to note that we are not talking about winners and losers, but achievement and failure. It is the difference that can drive someone who fails to ultimate success… if the take personal accountability.

What really defines and creates a culture of accountability in a business?

A culture of accountability occurs when people demonstrate ownership to think and act in the manner necessary to achieve organizational results. The defining characteristic of this type of culture is that people voluntarily assume accountability. Employees at every level of the organization are personally committed to achieving key results targeted by the team or organization, reporting proactively, following up and diligently measuring their own progress, because they have internalized their commitment to achieving results. Their mantra is “What else can I do to achieve the desired results,” which leads them to find answers, overcome obstacles, and succeed in the face of adversity.

Authors Roger Connors and Tom Smith have studied and written about accountability for years. One of their examples is The Wizard of Oz. The “participants” think of themselves as victims of circumstances, skipping down the yellow brick road, where the all-powerful Wizard will grant them courage, heart, wisdom, and the means to succeed. Even Dorothy believes she must travel the yellow brick road just to go home.

Successful managers recognize that the difference between success and failure, between great companies and ordinary companies, is a very thin line. Whether or not the organization operates above or below that line is highly determinate of success or failure. People and organizations operating below the line consciously or unconsciously avoid accountability for results. Falling into a victimized cycle, ignoring accountability, ducking responsibility, blaming others for their errors, asking others to tell them what to do, developing their story for why they are not at fault, and waiting for some miracle to be dispensed by the Wizard.

It’s easy to criticize those who play to participate rather than those who play to win. It is important to examine the culture that managers and business owners create. The role of the Wizard is often played by those that have a high need for personal verification at the expense of others, creating a culture of fear and eventual apathy. A culture of accountability begins at the top and is injected into the organization by senior management educating employees about a personally accountable culture.

In the 1980’s I had the privilege of working at Intel when Andy Grove was CEO. There have been books written both by and about Andy and the Intel culture, but the bottom line is that Grove was the poster child for being a tough and effective leader without being an ass. He was one of the most honest executives around about his own errors and those made by others. Very few executives were as honest about their own mistakes and worked to correct them so rapidly. he led by example.

So, how does one establish and reside in a culture of accountability? Look to The Wizard of Oz. Don’t get stuck on the yellow brick road. Don’t blame others for your own circumstances. Don’t wait for the Wizard to wave his magic wand. And never expect your problems to just disappear.
By practicing and propagating personal accountability, the label on your particular “trophy” will say a lot more than “participant.”

Revitalization Partners is a Pacific Northwest business advisory and restructuring management firm with a track record of achieving the best possible outcomes for clients. They specialize in improving the operational and financial results of companies and providing hands-on expertise in virtually every circumstance, with a focus on small and mid-market organizations. Contact Revitalization Partners if you want the best resolution in the fastest time with the highest possible return.

Revitalization Partners… when a company is worth saving.