Be accountable for what happens in your business and build trust

No one likes to admit that they made a mistake.

It can be even more difficult when you’re a business leader who needs to project an image of strength and confidence. A survey of nearly 1,000 global leaders and employees conducted by Boston-based Forum Corp. found that only 19 percent of the employees said their bosses were willing to apologize for mistakes.

“An important part of a leader’s job is to build trust and loyalty among employees by communicating openly and taking ownership of mistakes,” wrote Red Hat Inc. CEO Jim Whitehurst in a column that appeared in Fortune magazine.

Whitehurst has helped Raleigh, North Carolina-based Red Hat become the world’s leading provider of open source enterprise IT software solutions and services, with nearly $3.4 billion in revenue. He said owning mistakes is an integral part of his leadership philosophy and a key factor in maintaining a strong workplace culture.

“When leaders can’t be transparent about their own shortcomings, they risk negatively impacting corporate productivity, bottom lines and the next generation of talent,” Whitehurst added.

As leaders, we must take responsibility for everything that happens in our companies. We can’t hold our employees accountable if we’re not willing to hold ourselves to the same standard. The key is to put systems and processes in place that make it clear how decisions are made.

It’s not about knowing who to blame when a mistake is made. It’s about understanding who was responsible for the task, what went wrong and how it can be corrected so the company can get back on track to meet its goals.

While accountability is a foundational piece to building a strong culture, there is more that is required.

Successful companies create benchmarks that are adhered to as important matters are discussed. You may decide that any significant changes made need to be based on facts and not feelings.

If you put key benchmarks in place in each of your departments, you’ll have a better understanding about how your company is performing and can use that data to inform your strategy going forward. Along the lines of risk management, you might institute a policy in which you don’t make major shifts in direction without first testing the idea on a smaller scale. 

No matter how you lead, the key is that you take responsibility for what you’ve built.

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes,” says best-selling author and speaker John C. Maxwell. “That’s the day we truly grow up.”

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network