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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

Well-Being at Work: Accountability Based in Learning, Not Shame

Updated: May 29

This is a guest blog by Josie Santiago: Josie is leading a workshop "Accountability Based in Learning, Not Shame: Strengthening Nonprofit Leaders for Success" at the Nonprofit Lab in Denver, CO on January 25, 2024.

Building a culture of accountability is a key component of well-being in the workplace. Organizations thrive when people are in healthy relationship with each other. When we are aware of how our choices impact others and take responsibility for our actions, it can build a foundation of trust where relationships can flourish.

Yet, many organizations struggle with accountability and often practice it in a way that limits learning and creates more resistance - impacting morale and ultimately the bottom line.

So how can we reshape our practice of accountability to promote growth instead of shame?

When thinking about building a culture of accountability, consider starting with these 3 key components:

Organizational Beliefs and Framing of Accountability

Consider how your organization currently thinks about accountability. Is accountability a punitive measure? Or are your people excited to take on new roles and responsibilities?

The truth is accountability is best fostered when we center learning instead of punishment.

When we are primarily punitive in our accountability practices, we limit learning and make accountability undesirable. When we hold accountability as a punitive measure, we can inadvertently grow a culture of shame and blame instead of the cultivating the learning we truly want to see.

Accountability works best when people can openly share when things go wrong and are transparent about what they are learning from mistakes. We need psychologically safe work spaces in order for that honesty and transparency to take place.

Take some time to reflect on how you've used accountability in the past. What belief and framing was most helpful for you and your team? What wasn't?

How we engage people as leaders likewise impacts a culture of engagement and accountability. Here are some questions for you to explore:

  • Do my employees have what they need to do their best work?

  • Do my employees feel like their opinions and voice matter on projects and processes?

  • Do my employees feel empowered to take ownership of their work?

  • Do my employees know how their role impacts the team? Do they understand how they are contributing to the organizational mission?

  • Am I invested in my employees' leadership values or strengths and do I highlight them when I see them in action?

If you answered "Yes" to most or all of the questions above, you are already creating positive ways for your employees to take ownership and responsibility for projects!

Invest in your team's leadership values at all levels

Leaders who understand clearly how their contributions impact the larger mission of the team or project are more likely to take ownership of their part. People are more intrinsically motivated when they feel meaning, connection and purpose at work. When you invest in your teams leadership values at all levels, you nurture an environment where everyone is responsible, and encourage everyone to act. Consider your employees' leadership:

  • Who do they want to be as a leader in relation to others?

  • How do they want to model that for others?

  • How do they want to demonstrate alignment with what they care about as leaders?

Accountability is a community-based practice.

We often forget that accountability is a community-based practice. Recognizing that our actions have an impact on others around us is the first part of accountability. If your team operates with a high level of individualism, or if members don't feel like are cared for or belong - it can negatively impact accountability. Reflect on how your organization upholds the value of community/team:

  • Do people feel a part of a team at your company?

  • Do they need to be reminded that they are in community with each other?

  • How do you reinforce with each other that you are a team together and you are accountable to one another?

  • How is this value of community or team work spoken about and practiced within your company?

Leading at Work with Values

Many organizations have a strong set of values, but struggle to incorporate and live these values in their daily lives at work. Josie Santiago (founder of Akili Well) and Brenda Boyle (founder of Fireheart Coaching & Consulting) have teamed up to form a Wellness and Leadership Workshop and coaching series for teams. This system of quarterly workshops followed up by ongoing group and individual coaching helps teams:

  • Reconnect with their teammates

  • Redefine and realign their values

  • Ground themselves in their own personal why

Giving Teams and Individuals Tools to Succeed

We give tools to teams to help reground teams in what their values are, and how those values translate into behaviors that can be measured across the week, month, and year to hold teams and leaders accountable for staying true to the organization’s mission and vision.

By having opportunities to reconnect with their why, teams and companies can rebuild their sense of morale after having survived the pandemic with a renewed sense of purpose. We also empower individuals and teams with somatic tools to ground themselves and ease stress so everyone can feel their best at work. Join the Nonprofit Learning Lab and Josie Santiago at the Nonprofit Lab in Denver, CO on January 25, 2024. Josie is leading a workshop "Accountability Based in Learning, Not Shame: Strengthening Nonprofit Leaders for Success" and you won't want to miss it! Register here!

Special Discounts Available:

Group: Use discount code NLL3FOR2 to register 3 people for just $330

Individual: Use discount code friend25 for $25 off


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