Culture: the fertile garden or the graveyard of innovation?

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In an article by Ivy B. Grey on abovethelaw.com, it is suggested that a culture of accountability can be a great accelerator of innovation while blame can kill it.  The article focuses on the legal sector although, in our opinion, the ideas put forward in the article are equally relevant in other industries.

To build a culture of accountability where employees feel trusted to contribute ideas requires good management practices.  The article quotes Stephen Covey in The Speed of Trust, in which he identifies three key traits that are the foundation for trust:

  • Positive Relationships - Managers must demonstrate interest in the concerns of others, cooperate and resolve conflict, and give feedback in a helpful manner.
  • Good Judgement/Expertise - Managers must show they have deep expertise, good judgement, and the ability to anticipate problems.
  • Consistency - Managers must follow through on the values they espouse, honour commitments, and exceed obligations.

It is also suggested that if these traits do not exist at present then management should practice these three actions:

  • Declare Yourself - Managers should skip the unproductive guessing game and spell out what’s important to them, what they believe, how they work, what to expect from them as a leader, and seek to hear the same thing about the other person.
  • Demonstrate Respect - Managers should show respect for others’ feedback and contributions. Repeatedly, recognize those contributions in public and in private.
  • Deliver Results - Managers must do what they say they will and deliver the results they declare.  This gives employees the confidence to follow the manager’s lead.
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