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Create accountability for performance and values in your culture

4 min read


In our consulting work with organizations that desire a high performing, values-aligned corporate culture, my Ken Blanchard Cos. colleagues and I have found that most senior leaders have rarely experienced successful culture change in their careers. In addition, very few senior leaders have led successful culture change.

Our proven culture-change process first educates senior leaders on the best practices of high performing, values-aligned organizations. Our process then outlines three core actions that create the foundation of their desired culture moving forward:

  1. Performance clarity for every leader and player in the organization.
  2. Values clarity for every leader and player in the organization.
  3. Consistent accountability for performance and values.

Our process helps senior leaders understand and appreciate the need for these three core actions to be formalized and demonstrated daily. These three help make a corporate culture measurable so leaders can gauge the progress toward their desired culture.

To help with this “appreciation,” before we engage in the process kickoff workshop with an organization’s senior staff, we conduct interviews with attendees (and sometimes with select front-line supervisors and employees). During these “state of the culture” interviews, we examine the degree of clarity and the degree of accountability for performance and values across the organization.

Our research and experience has found that many of our clients have performance metrics in place, but not for every leader and player, only for most leaders, some players and even some teams. Again, it is rare that every leader and player has clear performance expectations outlined. Accountability for performance is usually found to be inconsistent, at best.

On the values side, most clients do not have defined values. A small percentage of clients do have values in place. Those statements may be their parent company’s values, but they at least have some “core principles” printed on such materials as posters or annual reports. A very small percentage of our culture clients have behaviorally defined values in place at the beginning of our culture work with them. Accountability for values is also commonly found to be inconsistent at best.

Immediate traction occurs when senior leaders embrace their responsibility to create clear performance expectations (for every leader and player) and hold all accountable for performance. We don’t educate senior leaders on this step as much as we guide them through a thorough and consistent process for performance clarity and accountability.

Senior leaders require quite a bit more direction, coaching and guidance from us to define values in behavioral terms. Once senior leaders commit to our culture-change process, they are quite bold in asking for help with creating behaviorally defined values.

Creating values clarity starts with leaders identifying benchmark values players — great “corporate citizens” — and assess what they do and how they interact with others that make them such great values players. We then help senior leaders create values and behaviors that define their organization’s “citizenship standards” for themselves and all organization members.

Here’s an example of a value and observable behaviors from a retail client of ours.

Value: Personal integrity
Definition: Ethics and integrity is how we earn the trust and respect that is critical to our success. Our customers trust us to be their advocate. Our suppliers trust us to be an equitable partner. And, as company employees, we trust each other to uphold the highest standards of conduct every day.

  • I communicate honestly.
  • I follow the law and company policies.
  • I ensure personal alignment with company expectations by understanding the code of conduct and policies that apply to my position.
  • If I am aware of actions that violate the law or company policy, I immediately report this to a salaried member of management or to our ombudsperson.
  • I cooperate with and maintain the privacy of any company investigation into violations of the code of conduct or any other company policy.

Once values are behaviorally defined, accountability systems are put into place to ensure demonstration of those behaviors by every leader and player. I’ll discuss values accountability techniques in my next SmartBlogs post.

To what extent does your company define values clearly and hold all leaders and players accountable for demonstrating those behaviors? Tell us in the comments.