Culture is the sum of your daily actions. How can you direct the actions of large organizations without micromanaging everyone? Simple. Use principle-based leadership tied to accountability to drive the behavior changes you’re looking for.
Once you understand your accountabilities as a leader, and you’ve clearly defined them for the members of your team, you need to start thinking about the broader organization and how you can create a culture of accountability. Culture is nothing more than the sum of our daily actions. To change culture, you’re going to want to put in place a set of principles for how you want people to behave. Those principles are going to drive daily behaviors.
Make no mistake about it – changing your culture will take time. Culture will not change overnight. But reinforcing small behaviors every single day, over time, are going to create that strong culture of accountability.
Your values need to be articulated and clarified in a manner that everyone in the organization understands them. You also need to give your people the latitude to behave in a manner where they’re not afraid of taking a risk and trying to live up to those values.
For example, I ran a large customer service organization at one point and we said we wanted to commit to the customer to give them great service. We knew we had financial obligations to the broader organization. What we did was we said we’re going to tell our associates who are on the phone with our customers to ask themselves one question: “Is this right for the customer?” Whatever they were thinking about doing during the interaction with the customer, they had to ask themselves “is this right for the customer?”. If the answer was yes, they should do it. If the answer was no, they needed to find some other solution.
We got some great behaviors because of that values-based approach. The associates felt empowered to help our customers. Our customers loved it. The service level scores were fantastic. Occasionally we’d get an associate that would do something that was too right for the customer and give away too much value, which then hampered us on reaching our financial goals. We were constantly trying to find that balance between delivering great service and meeting our financial goals. But by putting in place that one principle, we were able to shift those small daily behaviors of our associates on the phone and create the culture we wanted.
I had another call center environment where we wanted to treat our customers well. These particular customers were in collections, so it was already an adversarial relationship between us and them. We wanted to change that dynamic, so we told our associates “Look for signs of willingness in our customers’ part and if they’re willing to work with us toward finding a solution. Let’s believe that they want to pay us back and that they want to meet their obligations.” When our associates looked at that principle and started treating our customers that way, we got very different behavior.
Customers started finding new ways to pay us back. They actually put us higher in the payment hierarchy. We were getting paid before other creditors who were beating these customers up on the phone and telling them that they needed to pay now and threatening them. We were willing to work with the customer. It was that small principle that we put in place that changed those small behaviors exhibited by our call center associates. Our associates knew they were accountable for living up to that set of principles.
As you think about your organization and creating this culture of accountability, first determine the key behaviors that you want and make sure they’re aligned with the brand of your organization. Communicate those values. Let people know who they’re accountable to. Then figure out those small desired daily actions you want to see out of your people. Be patient, reinforce those behaviors, and when you see somebody do it right, celebrate that success. Communicate it broadly across the organization so people know what you’re looking for. If you’re able to be patient and have that clarity of principle, over time, you’ll have the culture of accountability you’re looking for.
Want to learn more about this topic? How about taking an entire course on it? Check out the video below to learn more about the course and get started. Or you can go directly to the course and start learning how to better lead a high-performing team. The entire course is available at lynda.com. Enjoy!
Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!