No Excuses Needed! Creating And Sustaining A Culture Of Accountability

No Excuses Needed!  Creating And Sustaining A Culture Of Accountability

Can you imagine a world where no one makes an excuse for a missed deadline?

ChalmersChalmers Brothers recently spoke to my groups on creating and sustaining a culture of commitment and accountability. He stressed that conversations are the key to accountability, and as a leader, your job is to have effective conversations.

Your culture is how the people in your organization work together, or, said another way, it is how they behave. By focusing on the conversations that they have with one another, it is possible to consciously and positively change behavior and shape your own culture.

Managing Commitments

Business may be described as a network of promise-making, promise-keeping, and promise-managing. Given that, it may seem strange that a culture of accountability doesn’t require that 100% of original promises are kept. Instead, it does require that 100% of all commitments are managed. If an unforeseen circumstance prevents an original promise from being fulfilled, the promisor should immediately initiate a conversation and a make a new promise. In this way of thinking, it is totally unacceptable for an original deadline to pass without having communicated any reason for the delay as soon as it was known. When this timely communication happens, no excuses are needed.

When commitments are managed, relationships are always kept “clean”. Nothing important is left unsaid. Actively managing our commitments requires clear and effective communication.

How to Communicate

These conversational competencies help you to communicate clearly:

1.  Declaration

Declarations create or shift context. It’s when someone in authority states that something will be a certain way, such as when a CEO: 1) announces that the company will pursue a new market, 2) describes the desired future state, or 3) explains the company’s values and ethics.

Declarations are also used to communicate what conversations are required. For example, on the rare occasion when a commitment is missed, the CEO declares that the people involved must have a “responsible complaint” conversation.

2. Effective Request

Every organization gets results by virtue of how it coordinates action. The following are required to make an effective request:

a) Committed speaker and listener.
Each individual should have his or her full attention in the conversation.

b) Future action and conditions of satisfaction.
Each request must be clear and define how successful completion will be measured.

c) Timeframe.
Include specific dates and times.

d) Context (the “why”) and mood.
Clearly state the reason for the request to create shared understanding of why this request is important.

It’s vital to have the conversation only when both the speaker and listener are in an appropriate mood. How we make the request is more important than its actual words. The right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation!

These are the only valid responses to a request:
1. “Yes”.
2. “No”.
3. A commitment to commit: “I will respond by 5:00 p.m. on Friday”.
4. A counter-offer which results in a “yes” or “no”.

3. Responsible complaint

This is the conversation to hold with another individual when a commitment is not met and requires the following:

a) Remind the person that you originally declared that responsible complaints were being used when people don’t keep their commitments.

b) Confirm that you did originally have a commitment. If not, how did you leave that prior conversation without a clear agreement?

c) Verify that the commitment was not actually kept. It’s possible the listener forgot to inform you that the action was already done.

d) Emphasize the expectation that 100% of commitments must be managed.

e) If a promise was made, and not fulfilled or managed, share your assessments. Explain how failing to manage this commitment caused specific problems and their negative impact.

f) Make an additional effective request resulting in a new commitment, or revoke the initial agreement.

g) Discuss whether this instance is an event or trend. If it is an isolated event, discuss how to avoid it in the future. If it is a trend, then a conversation about continued employment may be warranted.

4) Sincere apology
To maintain your credibility, sincerely apologize when you are wrong.

How Not to Communicate:

As CEO, declare how you and your employees will not communicate:

  • Gossip is forbidden.
  • Issues and problems are only discussed between the people involved. No complaining is allowed outside this group.
  • Once a decision is made at the executive level, those executives must fully support it to the rest of the company. Non public criticism or negative comments are tolerated.

To improve accountability in your company, think about the following

  • What conversational competencies do you need to improve?
  • What conversations are missing?
  • What types of conversations should be prohibited?

In what conversation is your biggest opportunity to improve accountability in your organization?

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