Culture Chat

And other musings on humanizing the workplace
The Culture Chat Podcast: On Building a Culture of Accountability

The Culture Chat Podcast: On Building a Culture of Accountability

January 8, 2017
Maddie Grant

This episode features a fascinating conversation with Jonathan Raymond, CEO of Refound and author of Good Authority, a book about how to align personal and professional growth.  How do you hold people accountable without acting like a jerk?  How do you create a culture where accountability is welcomed and desired and aligned with doing your best work?

Here's an excerpt:

Jamie: When we look at organizations we try to characterize their culture using any number of terms. One of them is, how evolved that organization is on a spectrum of future of work. So if future of work is the destination, then we talk about organizations as being a traditionalist - methodologies and operating systems that are kind of rooted in the past, and then contemporary, and then futurist.
It seems like there are approaches that in maybe the more futurist organization would be received as kind of that jerk approach to accountability, but work really well in the more traditional environments. So it would seem that there are some people who are like, "You know what, don't sugarcoat it; don't give me the soft stuff. Just tell me what the heck I need to do." How do you identify the differences and who needs what and who wants what, and/or should we be doing that?
Jonathan: Yeah, I think that's a great question. I think that there's a sobriety to that inquiry that I love, which is, where is the organization today? We can all aspire to being in a better place, but what's realistic? Who are the leaders that we have? How much work have they done on themselves? What's the availability index, let's say, inside the organization? Mostly what I see are leaders in young technology growing companies, marketing, health care, software. A lot of the companies that I work with are on the West Coast, and what I'm seeing is leaders being too nice and then they're either walked all over, or they're kind of caught in the middle between the C-suite and the front line teams and a lot of first-time managers.
What I'm seeing is that there's a toughening up that's needed, which is not to not be compassionate, not to be understanding, but to do it in a direct way and to actually create boundaries. When I talk with HR leaders, every single day they say to me, "Our managers are too nice. They don't know how to set boundaries. They don't know how to create fair consequences when people screw things up." Then we end up in these perpetual cycles where...I had one HR leader say to me, "I feel like our culture is like a body builder. Like it looks really good on the outside and people say really nice things, but if you scratch the surface, like our cholesterol is terrible"! 
Jamie: I love it.
Jonathan: ...and that's what I find so often is that they rate... This one company, when they asked the people to rate the culture on a scale of 1 to 10, the culture got like a 9.2. That was its self-assessment. But when you actually talk to individuals, people are miserable. People don't feel seen, they don't feel heard, they don't feel valued. So there's this massive gap between our intentions and the impact of our intentions. I don't know if that answers your question, but that's really it.
Jamie: Well, I know. What I love about it actually in that it's a sort of akin to where you are in the continuum. Like where you are in the continuum is not the point. How where you are in the continuum directly contributes to whether you succeed or not, is the point.
Jonathan: Yes.
Jamie: So this idea of too nice or not nice enough, both of them actually can be a detriment depending on what you've got going on. So you've actually have to manage that and pay attention to it and sort of work on it.
Jonathan: Yeah. We set leaders up to fail when we don't honor where they are. So if there's a leader who comes from a pretty traditional background and is used to working in command and control environments, I'm not gonna try to get him to this radically new place overnight. What I am gonna try to do is to have him own where he is. To be able to talk with his team and say, "You know, I come from a pretty traditional command and control environment and so this new world, I wanna get there, but this is hard for me." People will just be like, "Oh, thank God. We know that about you. Thanks for telling us."
Jamie: Yeah, I love that because, again we talk about that same thing with culture. This idea that you're either good or you're bad is a bunch of baloney in the realm of work. Start by understanding who you are, own it, and then figure out how you iterate towards the change that you need, that you need. And that may not be a flip of the switch. That may take time and so on and so forth. I think if you can apply that to really anything in the world of work, we kind of let our guard down a little bit and we just start to focus on what we need to do.

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