October 2023

Creating a Culture of Accountability

By Jim Nalepa

When team members know exactly what's expected of them it creates a Culture of Accountability. When a leader initiates a positive motivational environment where each team member knows their responsibilities and exactly what is expected of them, no guesswork is needed.

How does a leader present this concept clearly and effectively?

In my almost 14 years with Academy Leadership as an affiliate and course facilitator, I have seen significant positive transformations in attendees due to the lessons learned, the new leadership ideas, and tools that are gleaned from the course and our key deliverables. None are as powerful or unique as our most significant deliverable, The Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP).

The origins of the "PLP" stem from a study the was done by the United States Navy called The Command Excellence Program to determine why some units and ships were consistently superior in their performance. It was determined that the differentiator for excellent units was that the commander took the time and very clearly explained to their units HOW and WHY they wanted their units to perform, and made sure that each and every member knew it.

This has long been known in military units as The Commander's Intent.

During our programs, we help each attendee draft and produce their own 500–600 word document which details:

This document becomes a contract between a leader and the team. It is an essential step in creating a Culture of Accountability. Holding team members and leaders accountable for their actions is the single thing most lacking in society today. The PLP is a great start in laying the foundations of what is expected of team members and the leader. Ask yourself this... how can you hold someone accountable if they don't know what's expected of them?

I have numerous success stories related to the PLP. The most recent was an attendee using his PLP in the interview process to win a coveted CEO job. Many instances of improved team performance have come directly because of the introduction of the PLP to the team.

However, the most significant success story began in 2012 when Mandi Komas, a PMP (Project Management Professional), was promoted to manager of a critical IT project team in her organization. She decided that she had the desire to lead but needed additional training and skills to be successful. She attended the Leadership Excellence Course (LEC) and created her PLP which transformed the course of her career.

When Mandi presented the first draft of her PLP she pointed out to her new team that they had once been the highest performing and most sought-after project team in the company. She then added that they had since become virtual pariahs and the company had lost faith in their ability to perform. Since the PLP is intended to be a positive, motivational document, I asked her, "Mandi, are you SURE you want to hit them that hard? It’s a pretty damning indictment."

Her reply was as straight forward and blunt as her personality. "Jim, I can't sugar coat it. They have rested on their previous reputation long enough, and if they don’t wake up NOW this team will be history. I have to shake them up out of their complacency and start holding them accountable.""

Well that she did. In her PLP she was very meticulous and detailed what she expected of them as individuals and as a team. She told them she wouldn't accept anything less than EXCELLENCE in their performance and that, unlike the prior leader, she was there to help and guide them in any way she could to clear obstacles and help make them successful.

In my initial coaching call with Mandi, 30 days after the LEC, I sensed a change in her. I always ask each attendee, "Did you present your PLP, and how was it received?"

Mandi replied, "Jim, it was if a lightbulb went on over each of their heads. It was transformational, and it seemed to jar them out of their sleep. This made THE difference. I smell success coming."

The next two coaching calls were even more electric. I knew Mandi made a significant leadership impact. Mandi had frequent contact over the next few years, the culmination of which was when she signed up to attend my Graduate Leadership Course (GLC). I then learned that she had been promoted to Director.

One of the first exercises in the GLC is to review the PLPs written in the LEC. I was speechless as Mandi read her revised PLP. "Team Congratulations! Through hard work and focus on what’s important, we have again regained our superb reputation. We are again the most sought-after project team in the organization."

I asked her, "Mandi, what was the difference maker?"

She replied, "The PLP was the catalyst to success; it was my vehicle and tool to create the environment. We held each other accountable for performance. THAT and the other tools you gave me were the margin of excellence."

In the ten years since Mandi wrote her initial PLP, she has been promoted twice, and she is now a Vice President and a top candidate for CIO.

Feedback from Mandi Komos

"I attended my first class with Jim at a pivotal stage in my career progression. I can say without a doubt that his training delivery was extremely relevant and instrumental in allowing me to take my development and my team's development to the next level. I highly recommend Jim as a trainer and Executive mentor. He cares about you as a person and cares about how he can help you be your very best for others.

The combination of these two classes have been the best, bar none, training I have ever had in my entire professional career. The time spent with Jim has paid back tenfold for me and my team."

Mandi Komas, PMP

We consider the development of a Personal Leadership Philosophy to be so critical to a leader's success that we make it part of every Academy Leadership program. Kick off 2024 with consistency and predictability, creating a strong foundation of credibility, trust, and accountability in your organization.