Vulnerability is the secret to fixing your Company’s accountability issues.
It’s a bold statement, but after watching Brené Brown: A Call to Courage on Netflix this month, I’m convinced.
Many teams experience struggle with accountability. They experience a lack of follow through. They avoid difficult discussions. Their culture is full of finger-pointing and gossip. Expectations aren’t clear and there are no consequences. Numbers are missed and joy is absent from the work. The team becomes paralyzed and innovation stops.
So as a leader, how do create a culture of accountability?
The answer is with vulnerability and courage.
According to Brown, vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Brave leaders are never silent around hard things - their job is to excavate what’s not being said and that requires vulnerability and courage.
But, it’s tough to put yourself out there - both as a leader and as a team member. You have to be willing to embrace the experiences of shame, scarcity, fear, anxiety and uncertainty. You have to be willing to take a chance - "get in the arena," as Brown says, and not just sit on the sidelines being critical of those who are already in there. Personal accountability is always the best place to start, if you aren't held accountable in the workplace how will the team embrace it in their culture? Lack of accountability is contagious, so stop it before it starts.
In the workplace, the challenge as a leader is to build a vulnerable culture. From my experience, it absolutely has to start with and be modeled by the CEO. The team has to have a safe space for failure. Brown says if perfectionism and armor are necessary and rewarded in your culture, you can’t have vulnerability. As a leader, you have to set the table. High performance teams hold employees accountable to achieve their long term desired results, and it starts with accountable leadership.
But, the impact can be immeasurably positive. A vulnerable culture fuels empathy, trust, innovation, creativity, inclusivity, hard conversations, feedback, problem-solving and ethical decision making. Ironically, all of the characteristics of an accountable culture.
Before getting started working on your vulnerability muscle, it might be helpful to assess your team’s level of accountability. Take a quick accountability assessment here.
As you start on your journey to building a vulnerable culture, consider Brown’s Myths of Vulnerability:
- Vulnerability is a weakness (this might be a hard one to unlearn!)
- I don’t do vulnerability (yes you do - just ask your spouse how good you are at it!)
- I can go it alone (it’s a team sport!)
- You can engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability (you have to be ready to be uncomfortable, or else you’re not doing it right!)
- Trust comes before vulnerability (it’s a process, not an event - one builds on the other!)
- Vulnerability is disclosure (it’s much deeper than sharing an embarrassing fact about yourself!)
It’s up to you as a leader to be brave and get started - that’s the hardest part. Building a culture of accountability creates a sense of ownership for the team, people are accountable for their results. And the next time you settle in for a Netflix session, consider Brené Brown. You’ll be glad you did.
Want more information on Team Accountability? Check out these additional resources:
The Power of Systems and People: Accountable Leaders and Teams leadership development program to improve team performance.
Take Our Team Accountability Assessment to see how your team stacks up.
Learn more about accountable leaders and teams.
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