Every organization possesses a number of unique values which help to define its unique culture. These values can be wide and varied and may include things such as honesty, integrity, compassion, trust, dedication, service, loyalty, social equality, environmental consciousness, innovation, exploration, and countless others. As I see it, the numerous values that contribute to an organization's culture can be divided into two groups: core values, and secondary values.
As the name suggests, core cultural values are those values that are at the core of an organization's culture and identity. Remove any of these core values and the organization's culture can be expected to change significantly. Secondary cultural values are important to an organization's culture as well; however they are not at the center of an organization's culture and play a lesser role in determining the identity of an organization.
In my experience working with organizations of all sizes in a variety of different industries there is one core cultural value that no truly successful organization can do without: personal accountability. Personal accountability is a cultural value that requires team members to take responsibility for their own actions and focus on what actions can be taken on the individual level to improve the performance of one's organization.
From my experience I can say that organizations that stress personal accountability as a core cultural value consistently have higher levels of employee morale and vastly outperform organizations that do not. To help you determine if personal accountability is missing from your organization's core cultural values I have identified five signs that personal accountability isn't a core cultural value.
- The "Blame Game" – It sounds like, "Who dropped the ball?" Here everything is everyone else's fault and complaints that one department isn't doing their job or not getting things completed on time are frequent. Excuses multiply like an epidemic and the finger is always pointed somewhere other than at oneself. Organizations that value personal accountability have team members who ask themselves what they can personally do to help achieve goals and objectives and avoid placing blame on others.
- Victim Thinking – It sounds like, "Why do we have to go through all this change?" or "Why doesn't anyone tell us what is going on?" or "Why can't they communicate better?" In these situations team members allow themselves to become victims of their environment and use this as an excuse for failing to reach business objective and not living up to expectations. Organization's that value personal accountability seek ways to adapt to change and communicate better with those around them.
- Procrastination – It sounds like, "When will I be appreciated?" In this case team members consistently delay action until a future time. Such team members will often justify their actions with statements like the above and "voice" their frustration by allowing opportunities to slip by and pushing deadlines further and further past their original date. Organizations that value personal accountability take challenges head on and insist upon meeting deadlines and adhering to established timelines.
- Creativity Problems – It sounds like, "I can't do my job effectively until I have better tools." Team members will often make excuses for their performance by blaming a lack of resources or equipment available to them. Organization's that value personal accountability recognize that no company has unlimited resources and that creative means to solve problems must be used to make up for this absence of unlimited resources.
- Belief Problems – It sounds like, "I have to go to work." In this case team members are not attuned to the organization's mission, vision, and values and performance suffers as a result. Organizations that value personal accountability are comprised of team members who eat, sleep, and breathe the mission, vision, and values of their organization. As John Miller, author of the personal accountability classic: QBQ! - The Question Behind the Question - put it: "Believe or Leave!"
Your organization's values are essential to its identity and in my opinion there is no value more critical to its success than personal accountability. Personal accountability can be integrated into your organization's culture regardless of the other values it has. Unless blame, procrastination, and victim thinking are values within your organization, there is very little chance that adopting personal accountability as a core cultural value will conflict with the existing values of your organization.
The best thing about personal accountability is that it is a value that can be consciously adapted as a core cultural value. If any of the five items above describe your organization there is a good chance that it lacks personal accountability as a core cultural value. John Miller's book – QBQ! – is a great guide for developing and improving the level of personal accountability in your organization. The book is a quick read, suitable for team members at all levels of an organization, and will open your eyes to the importance of personal accountability within your organization.