The Roots to an Accountable Culture Start by Being First

by on Sep 28, 2015 2:13 PM

To create an accountable culture, a leader must break through the stages suggested in the following pyramid by Patrick Lencioni (Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Jossey-Bass, 2002).  A leader must be the first in an organization to face each stage by addressing them with vigor 

before expecting the team to do so.  It may take years for some, while others may break through levels fairly quickly.  Let's look at how a leader can do this. 


Trust: Since the organization's culture reflects the leader's character, the leader must first be trustworthy and trust in him/herself.   This means having the faith to consistently do the right things and having the confidence to make the right business decision even in unforeseeably difficult situations.  A leader needs to trust in him/herself before being able to trust others.

Conflict:  It's one of the most feared words for leaders and employees. Yet, conflict can be healthy in an organization.  Why? Construct conflict helps a company reach its full potential because the staff expresses different and creative point of views.  Conflict also helps the leader grow as an individual when the leader is forced to face the conflict in a timely and positive way.

Once a leader is able to have trust in him/herself and is willing to face conflict, the leader is ready for the next step of the pyramid.

Commitment:  Commitment happens when the pain of doing nothing is greater than the risk of change. It takes place when the leader reaches a point where he/she consciously says he/she is willing to face risk. It's driven from the leader's dissatisfaction with status quo and their hunger to do more, be more, or have a company that's greater than where it is today. 

Accountable:  After passing through these stages, the leader is now ready to be accountable to him/herself.  The leader welcomes others to hold the leader accountable. The leader thrives on being accountable because the leader wants to grow. It does not mean the leader thinks he/she is perfect or that he/she won't make mistakes or fail in certain tasks. Rather, it means the leader reaches a plateau where he/she will succeed in spite of mistakes or failure. In fact, a leader embraces mistakes because they shape the journey to a better self and greater good.

Results: At this point in the pyramid, the leader has built trust, embraced healthy conflict, committed to break the past and sought to be accountable.  A solid culture has sprouted roots.  The leader will begin to see results from the team's:

  • Passion about the product/services and living the culture
  • Pursuit to deliver
  • Willingness to follow the leader

Let's take a look at how this played out for a leader who took the steps to get there.   A third-generation business owner had a stable business with flat growth. The owner's issues were:

  • Too many friends in the business
  • Silo'd teams and communication
  • Decision-by-consensus and avoiding making the tough decisions

How did the owner address the issues and overcome his fear? The owner was hungry to grow his company to something bigger and better.  He wanted to make his mark on the business, his community, family and the industry.  

Trilogy initially met with him about basic business operations and processes.  The conversation quickly turned to connecting the behavioral and emotional aspects interwoven through the business stuff.  Over time, he embraced coaching and put his trust in a team of advisors from Trilogy. 

His first challenge was to establish a trusting relationship with his direct reports and entire staff.  He replaced some of his friends with business executives who looked at the business objectively and communicated openly.  This gave him confidence that he had great people around him so that he was not facing the business alone. 

The remove-and-replace process caused conflict with some of the leadership team and staff members because they feared they'd face the same and did not understand the changes.  That drove him to communicate openly about his desire to have the business succeed and for him to change as a leader.  In doing so and over several months he:

  • Encouraged healthy debates (constructive conflict)
  • Made hard decisions (about people, processes and products)
  • Took ownership for his decisions (held himself accountable)
  • Learned to trust and delegate (deeper and more than he ever imagined)
  • Spent time growing and learning every day (reading books, discussing situations with Trilogy advisors, asking questions)

He believed the advisors cared as much about his success as he did.  They gave him hope, expertise and the sense of not being alone.  Trilogy was there to give him the confidence and shoulders to lean on. 

What were the results?

  • In three years, the company more than doubled its top and bottom line
  • He ultimately stepped away as leader handing the reins to an operational expert
  • Became financially independent no longer depending on the business' cash flow to sustain his lifestyle

I love being able to walk beside leaders like this because they ultimately fill my own purpose.  Today, you can find this leader on a journey to fulfill his personal passions ultimately improving his community family and friends.  This leader took the hard steps of planting the roots of accountability ' trust, conflict and commitment ' to ultimately build an accountable company and great results.