That’s what many think when hearing the business buzz phrase “creating a culture of accountability.” Gotcha implies someone is “after you” and you have to figure out how to not get “hit.” And no one I know wants to be on the end of “gotcha.”
Many organizations today often choose one of two paths when it comes to accountability: there is little or no accountability or it’s a gotcha accountability culture. Neither will give them a competitive advantage. Don’t let your credit union fall into the trap of venturing down either of these paths.
Instead, how about shifting the accountability paradigm from “gotcha” to “kudos,” where employees earn respect and recognition? This shift will move your credit union from average to beating the competition, providing your members with much-enhanced service. The primary principles of a “kudos” accountability culture are common sense – but unfortunately, common sense is not common.
If you see an advantage to rethinking your culture of accountability, this article will provide tips to making an accountability paradigm shift.
Definitions of accountability
A common dictionary definition of accountability is: liable to being called to account; answerable, responsible.
Business-to-business trade magazine, MRO Today, recommends a new definition for accountability:
A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results; to see it, own it, solve it, and do it. This definition includes a mindset or attitude of continually asking, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results the credit union, department, and I desire?”
Today’s work environment
The nature of work in credit unions is shifting quickly from transactional work, where interactions are rule-based and can be scripted or automated to a “tacit work” environment. Tacit work requires more complex interactions requiring a higher level of judgment involving ambiguity and drawing on experiential knowledge. McKinsey (the international strategy consulting firm) finds in a 1998 study that tacit work accounted for 70% of all new jobs. (The Performance Manager, by Roland and Patrick Mosimann and Meg Dussalult) That study was almost 10 years ago – you can predict that if this study were duplicated today, tacit work would be increased considerably. An example of the work shift from transactional to tacit is that many credit unions have been deploying strategies to build relationships with members, not just focusing on the teller line transaction.
Tacit work environments make creating an accountability culture more difficult but very doable if the following simple principles are followed:
Results oriented: This principal means to establish and communicate OFTEN very clear results that are expected from every level/function of the credit union.
The reason this is not “common” is because many credit union managers think in terms of “task oriented jobs.” These managers lead people to believe if they perform their functions/tasks, they’ve done what they’re supposed to do whether or not the result was achieved. Another reason this is not common is that writing clear measurable goals is one of the weakest skills of all managers for all industries.
Joint accountability: This happens when everyone in the credit union understands the organization’s goals and everyone in the credit union assumes accountability for the results.
Joint accountability takes in the needs, concerns, capacities, and dispositions of affected parties – and explains the meaning and the implications of, and the reasons for, actions and decisions.
The tacit work that employees perform across all functions requires much more collaboration and sharing of experience and knowledge to problem solve and work together to achieve the overall goals of the credit union.
This is not common because for years credit unions operated in functional silos – employees didn’t have to work together to perform their transactional tasks.
Trust: This principal is the glue holding the organization, its programs, and its people together. Trust means being able to predict what other people will do and what situations will occur. Trust also means enabling other people to take advantage of your vulnerabilities – but expecting that they will not do this. Mutual trust is a shared belief that you can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose. If we can surround ourselves with people we trust, then we can create a safe present and an even better future.
Trust is not common because there are typically “say/do” gaps. Leaders “say” one thing, but their behaviors “do” the opposite.
Trust is uncommon, not only in credit unions cultures, but also in every facet and corner of our lives. We are a society that has been jaded by untrustworthy behavior of our leaders.
Transparency: This is openness, two-way communication, dialogs, and joint accountability throughout the organization. It is the sharing of organization, department, and individual work-related information. Transparency supports all elements of becoming a kudos accountability culture. By sharing goals and work feedback toward goals, transparency encourages joint accountability because everyone knows what each other are doing. Transparency reinforces trust.
Transparency is not common – primarily because we have learned not to be trusting. Therefore, we don’t easily share information.
When you share information and create a transparent organization, you show respect. When you show respect, you get trust. And when you have trust, anything is possible!
Does your culture support “kudos” accountability? Do you communicate results oriented goals that everyone understands? Do you have joint accountability?
Make this new definition of accountability part of your performance management coaching and review process…
Kudos Accountability: A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results; to see it, own it, solve it, and do it. This definition includes a mindset or attitude of continually asking, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results the credit union, department, and I desire?”