EB109 - Reasonable Accountability © Question:   I’ve noticed that people are more likely to bristle at accountability than to take it as a way to improve and grow.  What’s the most effective method for holding people accountable, yet encouraging them?

Larry:   This is always a difficult balance to maintain.  It's like trying to bridle in a great race horse without breaking its spirit.  Those of us who have been abused or humiliated by an authority figure know how our bad experiences can create fears and leave emotional scars that last a lifetime.  Not only that, when people feel insecure or afraid, it leads to serious problems in the work place.  But in a keeping the promise culture, things are different.

For example:

1.    People are praised and rewarded for finding errors.  Knowing this, they will eagerly embrace the search for errors as the path to reaching higher standards.  This is especially true when a discovered error is treated as an opportunity to share in the recovery of lost profits.

2.    People are encouraged to discover and take responsibility for the causes of problems, essentially holding themselves accountable.  Other systems of accountability then become secondary and are only needed to separate chronic problems from normal human errors.

3.    Trust and security are nurtured by having the stated values become the practiced values.  But simple consistency by the leaders is not enough. There must also be "due process," with established procedures for gathering and evaluating the facts of an issue and making reasonable judgments.

In a keeping the promise culture, only people who are hardened into dishonest behaviors and unwilling to change should ever need to be fired. Almost any problem can be resolved with honest, well-intended people.  But when repeated errors point to a person's attitude instead of simple mistakes or the frailties of a process, the procedures for correction should include progressive discipline.