Leadership 2.0: Hold Everyone Accountable for Results AND Respect

S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams. He’s a speaker, author, and executive consultant who helps senior leaders build and sustain purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He also served as a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies for 24 years. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. His upcoming book with Mark S. Babbitt, Good Comes First, guides leaders to create an uncompromising work culture where respect is as important as results. Good Comes First launches on September 28, 2021. Learn more at http://GoodComesFirst.com.

Does your work culture demean and dismiss people – or does it validate and celebrate them? 

Research proves – and our own experiences show – that our workplaces are not as inspiring or generous as they need to be. Instinctively, we know employees deserve to be respected, validated and honored for their ideas, efforts, and accomplishments. And yet, most say their daily experiences at work are more demeaning and dismissive rather than inspiring and constructive. 

The data is clear: Despite newfound freedom from work-at-home opportunities, people are still not finding their work fulfilling or engaging. Gallup’s 2021 research, for example, found that 20% of global employees are engaged at work while 36% of US employees are engaged. That leaves a lot of room for improvement across the planet.

There is hope, however. Gallup’s Exceptional Workplace Award winners average 73% employee engagement – double the US engagement rate and more than triple the current global level of engagement. So what are those companies doing differently? Why do those employees come to work engaged – while others come to work just to collect a paycheck?

Key to Success: Making Respect as Important as Results

Every leader I’ve ever spoken to wants greater engagement, increased wellbeing, deeper commitment, and positive teamwork across their organization. They know positive moves in these metrics lead to more productivity and higher profits. But they’re not sure how to create real change within their organization. When asked to change their work culture, they don’t know where to start.

The answer is quite simple for many leaders: Leaders must build a solid foundation that ensures respect is as important as results in every corner of your organization.

To do that – and to build and sustain a purposeful, positive, productive work culture – we help leaders first define their desired culture. Specifically, we help them formalize their organization’s servant purpose, values and behaviors, and strategies and goals. This thorough process helps clarify an organization’s desired “end state” – presumably, a workplace where employees experience good – respectful, validating engagement – in every interaction.

Once the ‘define’ process is complete, the next step is to hold every person in the organization accountable for living the desired culture.

This is where many leaders fail, however. Instead of holding themselves and others accountable, shortly after announcing the new rules and working conditions, they fail to live up to the new expectations themselves. At crunch time, rather than correct destructive, win-at-all-costs behaviors, too many leaders rationalize those behaviors. In the process, those leaders prove to every employee that results still matter more than respect, and this change effort isn’t real. Employees quickly realize that leaders talk a good game but are more than willing to change the rules as the game is played.

The Key to Real Change: Accountability

The lever that changes – and sustains – your uncompromising work culture is accountability: holding everyone accountable for respect and results, every day. As history and data show us, a leader who pulls this lever – and serves as Chief Role Officer themselves – takes employee engagement numbers from the mid-30s to the low-70s.

Unfortunately, accountability has been inconsistent in our workplaces for decades.

In an informal (non-scientific) poll conducted on my website, Driving Results Through Culture, 65% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement:

“Formal leaders in our company hold themselves accountable for both respect and results.” 

Now 65% isn’t bad – but that means that 35% of respondents disagree with that statement. 

Only 54% of respondents, though agreed or strongly agreed with this statement: 

“Formal leaders in our organization hold everyone accountable for both respect and results.” 

That leaves 46% that disagree with the statement. 

Granted, this quick snapshot may not be reflective of your workplace. But it’s highly likely that 100 % of your employees do not 100% agree with those two statements. Which means accountability is not consistent for these two highly desirable workplace outcomes: respect and results.

women's leadership

Every leader I’ve ever spoken to wants greater engagement, increased wellbeing, deeper commitment, and positive teamwork across their organization.


A Proven Accountability Model

In our upcoming book, Good Comes First (available on September 28, 2021, and ready for pre-order now), my co-author, Mark S. Babbitt, and I share our proven approach for embedding respect and results across every workplace plan, decision, and action. 

Within that approach, leaders must consistently demonstrate these five accountability practices: 

  • Model – All leaders, from the top down, must proactively demonstrate your organization’s desired change, including serving as a role model for defined values and behaviors, living the organization’s servant purpose, etc. By modeling these behaviors, they can better serve as coaches, monitors, and mentors.
  • Coach – Each day, as opposed to just during annual performance evaluations, leaders provide individualized direction, guidance, and validation to raise the level of respect shown while also focusing on performance expectations (results) for each player.
  • Measure – Leaders don’t assume they, other leaders, and key players are living the defined values and behaviors. Instead, they conduct regular surveys and assessments designed to collect objective input. As data is available, it informs how leaders can help a leader, player, or team better align to the desired culture.
  • Celebrate – To sustain real change, leaders must reward desirable behaviors; they must celebrate moments where team members placed respect on the same pedestal as results. Daily, leaders must provide tangible expressions of gratitude and appreciation for others’ ideas, efforts, and accomplishments.
  • Mentor – Despite a leader’s best efforts, some players and teams – those unable or unwilling to align to the desired culture – will require the firm yet empathetic approach of a mentor. They will need help embracing the change – or with facing the consequences associated with their inability to adapt,

Sustainable, Saturating Change

When senior leaders demonstrate these proven practices daily, two systemic changes organically occur: 

  • First, as the behavior of senior leaders creates credibility for the defined culture, people understand that respect and results are equally important.
  • Second, next-level leaders learn that they, too, must demonstrate these proven practices, which drives accountability for respect and results throughout the organization. 

The absence of these accountability practices, though, leads to a less-than-desirable company culture. Ultimately, it leads to disrespectful treatment of employees, poor employee engagement, and missed performance expectations. We know what that looks and feels like – and we know your team members and your organization deserve better. 

Help your organization define an uncompromising work culture. Then help every leader, player, and team thrive by holding them appropriately accountable for aligning to that unique culture and making respect as important as results. 

Register to receive Good Comes First’s full table of contents – plus the foreword by Venus Williams – at http://GoodComesFirst.com.

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