Tag Archives | Accountability

How Tolerations Hinder the Values-Aligned Culture

As part of my work with Blanchard‘s coaching.com team, I was exposed to a very powerful concept: tolerations. This idea is critical to living a values-aligned life in your family, community, or workplace – and to creating the high performance, values-aligned culture.

The concept of tolerations was developed by Thomas Leonard, often called the creator of the life coaching movement. Thomas founded Coach U and the International Coaching Federation, and created many programs used by coaches worldwide to help clients be more effective in their lives. Thomas passed away suddenly in 2003, leaving a legacy of exceptional coaching methods and standards.

Here’s how Thomas positioned tolerations:

Let’s define tolerations as things that bug us, sap our energy, and could be eliminated! Tolerations are holes in your personal success cup; they drain away your contentment and good fortune. They drain YOU. They make you feel less attractive to yourself. Tolerations often represent compromises you’ve talked yourself into.

My focus in this article is on how senior leaders’ tolerations impact their organization’s culture. If senior leaders want a high performance, values-aligned culture yet tolerate behaviors that are inconsistent with desired valued behaviors, there are undesirable results that always occur:

  • Leader credibility is eroded – if senior leaders say they want a certain culture yet they tolerate poor behavior from organization leaders or members, then senior leaders’ words and commitments are not trusted.
  • Organization leaders and members are frustrated and disappointed because accountability is inconsistent, which erodes both performance and commitment to the organization, its customers, and its stakeholders.
  • The desired culture never gains traction.

Senior leaders are often blind to what they are tolerating in their culture and do not clearly see the negative impact of those tolerations. Tolerations create a frustrating work environment and inhibit performance and creativity. They drain energy and commitment and erode trust across the workforce. The costs are real.

The good news: controlling senior leader tolerations is about each senior leader’s choices and behavior – it’s not about fixing others around them. Sometimes partnering with a competent executive coach can help senior leaders see their culture from a new perspective, and help them identify the key tolerations that are causing frustration and holding their organization back.

Recognize and Address Your Tolerations

Whether you are a senior leader of a multi-million dollar company, a project team lead, or anyone in between, eliminating tolerations follows the same series of steps.

  1. Create a list of the things that bug you, that drain your energy, that compromise desired behaviors in your culture. Focus particularly on behaviors that are inconsistent with your organization’s desired valued behaviors.
  2. Prioritize your list so the issues that have the greatest negative impact can be addressed first. Being conscious of what you’ve tolerated in your culture helps you modify your choices and your behavior to no longer accept those tolerations.
  3. Have conversations with those players whose behavior you’ve been tolerating, one at a time. These are non-judgmental conversations – not emotional or explosive conversations. These people have been behaving in these ways for a long time because you have tolerated their behavior. Now, you have made a choice to not tolerate that behavior any more.
  4. Secure clear agreements about future behavior, and hold those players accountable for their commitments. Praise progress and accomplishment, and redirect players if they struggle with their new commitments. If players are unable to keep their commitments, lovingly set them free – help them out of the organization as they are unable to demonstrate desired valued behaviors.

As you eliminate tolerations in your culture, you will be amazed at the demonstration of increased energy, motivation, performance, and commitment by organization leaders and members.

What are you tolerating in your personal or professional life today? What experience do you have with growth after reducing tolerations? Share your comments below.


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The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Moral Courage to conduct Difficult Conversations


I recently facilitated a culture change process kickoff with some of the finest men and women I’ve ever met – uniformed and former Marines who are engaged in a continuous process improvement effort across the Marine Corps. Blanchard has highlighted the US Marine Corps for years as one of the most values-aligned organizations on the planet. The Marine values of “Honor, Courage, and Commitment” are the foundation of every interaction, in and out of war zones, for every Marine. For life.

Yet, like all human organizations, sometimes the focus on productivity dilutes the commitment to values alignment. The incredible pressure of wartime and multiple fronts may be unique to our military, but the challenge of delivering consistent high performance while always modeling desired values is common across organizations worldwide.

In our session at the Marine base in Quantico, VA, one of the program’s leaders shared insights from one of his best bosses in the Corps. This officer helped Joel learn an important nuance of what courage means in the Marines. The officer differentiated two different kinds of courage: physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is demonstrated when a physical reaction is required – pulling a wounded Marine out of harm’s way or jumping into the driver’s seat of a vehicle to move it out of the line of fire, for example. Moral courage is demonstrated when a Marine sees behavior that misses the Marine standard, and a difficult conversation is required.

Joel explained that physical courage is trained into the “body, mind, and spirit” of Marines so demonstrating it is simple, immediate. Joel’s best boss believed that moral courage is more difficult, and, without it, leaders are ultimately ineffective anywhere they serve.

It does not take moral courage to observe a Marine’s dress uniform askew; it takes moral courage to pull him or her aside and ask that it immediately be fixed. It does not take moral courage to observe a direct report deliver poor service to a customer; it takes moral courage to ask them to sit down, discuss what you observed, and help them commit to different behaviors that will “wow” their customer in the future.

A lack of moral courage means that accountability for expectations – both performance expectations or values expectations – is inconsistent at best and absent at worst. This “optional” culture typically translates into poor quality of products and services, inconsistent customer experiences, and unfair treatment of employees within the organization.

Moral courage does not mean that you deliver messages with anger, frustration, or a demeaning approach. It means that you conduct difficult conversations with care and caring, expecting the best from your follower, facilitating and coaching their clear understanding of both the expectation and the behavior required to meet that expectation.

If you want a high performance, values aligned culture, you must clarify performance and values expectations and then hold all leaders and staff accountable for meeting (or exceeding) those standards. Be bold with praise and encouragement when leaders and staff deliver performance the right way. Moral courage will help you conduct those needed difficult conversations along the path towards your desired culture.

What successful or not-quite-successful difficult conversations have you experienced over your career? Share your insights in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Culture Change Leader’s Secret: Consistency!

The journey to become a high performing, values aligned organization is both intense and gratifying. Senior leaders may not be aware of it, but they are both the sponsors and drivers of the organization’s current culture.

When leading a culture change initiative, scrutiny of senior leader plans, decisions, and actions increases heavily. I tell senior leaders that they’ll never be able to run a yellow light in a traffic signal in their town again! Yes, even senior leader behavior far from the workplace is scrutinized.

Here’s a great example. A client recently shared an interesting perspective about his boss, a gentleman he’d been working with for over a year. His boss – let’s call him Tom – is a fabulous champion of Blanchard’s culture change process. Tom has effectively led culture change initiatives at his last two organizations and has begun work to refine the culture of his current organization. Tom started with his senior leadership team by sharing his leadership point of view – his philosophy of leadership – and his values. He asked his direct reports to hold him accountable to those values and the valued behaviors Tom has defined.

In addition, Tom chartered his senior leadership team to refine that group’s purpose, values, behaviors, and norms to ensure everything they do helps the business grow and succeed and is consistent with their agreements.

The client’s comment unintentionally described the scrutiny Tom is under. He said, “I keep waiting for Tom to be inconsistent.” Two things are clear – Tom has really put himself on the line by declaring his values and asking his staff to hold him accountable for those values. And, for over a year, Tom hasn’t yet acted in conflict with his declared values. That’s really powerful!

Senior Leaders Must Model Declared Values

It is extremely important for senior leaders to model the desired values and valued behaviors – every day, with every interaction. Unless senior leaders embrace the new expectations, demonstrating valued behaviors, the change will not take hold – and senior leader credibility will suffer. Too often senior leaders “manage by announcements,” publishing a set of expectations or rules that they declare are to be embraced from that moment forward, yet they do not actively demonstrate those expectations themselves. No wonder leader credibility suffers in many organizations. Only when senior leaders model desired valued behaviors will the rest of the organization trust those leaders . . . follow those leaders . . . and model those desired valued behaviors themselves.

Does Your Culture Serve Customers, Employees, and Stakeholders Equally Well?

If the existing culture is not serving customers, employees, or stakeholders consistently, it may be time for a change.

Senior leaders can refine their organization’s existing culture by doing three things:

  • First, clarify performance expectations and gain employee agreement on those expectations.
  • Second, define values in behavioral terms and gain employee agreement to demonstrate those behaviors.
  • Finally, hold themselves and all organizational leaders, managers and staff accountable for both performance and values.

Most senior leaders have not experienced successful culture change. Even fewer, across the globe, have led successful culture change. When you are ready, we’re here to help.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How Aligned are your Company’s Vision, Strategy, Systems, and Goals?

I’m looking forward to a visit with my chiropractor this week before I start back on the road. I know that my day-to-day activity can cause my body’s bones and musculature to get out of alignment. Two back surgeries and nearly six decades of gravity take their toll. Dr. Doug’s magic touch helps release muscle groups that hold me in an ineffective, unhealthy posture.

I swear by the magic touch of another practitioner, as well: Becky, my massage therapist and acupuncturist. Her work has increased my awareness of bad habits and muscle tension that get in the way of the body’s energy flow. When my “chi” is flowing freely, I’m more present, more focused, more at peace, and more able to apply my skills and enthusiasm in effective ways.

As a human who was brought up valuing Western medicine (“just take this pill, it’ll be all better!”), the effectiveness of their work has helped my beliefs change to embrace these very powerful approaches.

Alignment in Organizations

These experts’ work on my physical, mental, and spiritual being have also increased my appreciation for alignment within organizations. When I engage with senior leaders to help them refine their organization’s culture, I start with interviewing senior leadership team members and select managers, supervisors, and front line staff to learn how the culture operates today.

When I compare current practices with the best practices of high performing, values aligned cultures, I consistently find unclear vision and strategy. Gaps typically include goals in one part of the organization that are in conflict with goals in other parts of the organization. Systems typically have evolved to support current practices, despite inconsistent quality, poor customer service experiences, and difficulty getting agreement about how to address daily issues.

Just as my mis-aligned skeletal structure and musculature cause me pain and difficulty in moving, mis-aligned organizational vision, strategy, structure, systems, and goals waste time and money, and cause conflict and poor productivity.

How can you learn if these key organizational elements are aligned? Ask this question of a random sample of leaders and front line staff: “What gets measured, monitored, and rewarded around here?” It is very likely that you will find that the culture emphasizes results and performance, yet doesn’t equally emphasize values or valued behaviors. You may also discover competing goals – a classic circumstance is the drive for sales creates division and friction in the delivery or manufacturing side of the business.

Start at the Top

Begin with the end in mind: revisit your organization’s vision of the future. What do you want to be to key stakeholders, who include customers and employees? Clearly state what your vision is, seek input from all staff, the communicate the final draft throughout the organization.

Formalize your organization’s strategy by answering questions like these:

  • What and/or who is your target market?
  • What do customers in that market need?
  • Which of your products and services best address those needs? Are there new products and services you could offer that address those needs more effectively than your current product/service mix does?
  • How will you communicate your solution(s) to that target market?
  • How will you know when you’ve made an impact in that market? What metrics will you use to gauge your success?

Formalize that strategy in a written statement. Share it with all employees to seek their insights, then publish your final draft and communicate it broadly throughout your organization.

Only after vision and strategy are clear can you take on mis-aligned systems and goals. Aligning these elements is a great deal of work that requires constant monitoring and refinement. But that’s what effective senior leaders do. Every day.

What alignment strategies work for you & your body – and for your work team? Share your insights in the comments sections below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Accountability = Consequence Management

One of the issues I hear most consistently from senior leaders, managers, and supervisors is their daily struggle to hold staff members and teams accountable for performance or for values. One senior leader recently told me, “It’s so hard to hold people accountable when you’ve known them for years and years. I just wish they’d do what they said they’d do!”

I spent 15 years in non-profit management and, honestly, I experienced the same struggles. I believed that:

  • My staff members should know what they are supposed to do.
  • They should be committed to doing it, and
  • What the heck is going on now? They’re not delivering and I’m frustrated.

(That’s a lot of “shoulds” in one belief, isn’t it?)

The reality is that, without consequence management, you are not leading, you are creating chaos. Your credibility is maintained, day by day, when you do what you say you will do. For example, if you announce that, from this point forward, every team member will be expected to demonstrate our team’s valued behaviors, you have set a standard. Educating team members about desired valued behaviors is important, but, without accountability, those valued behaviors are just one more set of expectations that your employees can ignore.

In this scenario, unless you proactively praise those who demonstrate desired valued behaviors (positive consequences) and coach/redirect those who do not demonstrate desired valued behaviors (negative consequences), the standard you set is not real. If the standards you set are not real, then your team members cannot trust your word, your feedback, your coaching, or your direction. The result? Chaos.

One of my best bosses, Jerry Nutter, helped me learn that accountability is really not that complicated. Jerry taught me that holding people accountable involves three steps, all of which are the leader’s responsibility.

Three Steps

  1. Clear Expectations: Begin by formalizing your expectations. Ken Blanchard says that all good performance starts with clear goals. Describe the outcome in specific terms: “Your goal is to reduce waste on your team’s shift by 10% by the end of the month.” Formalize the expectation in writing (hard copy or electronic, whichever works for you and your team member).
    This step isn’t finished until you gain agreement by the responsible player to meet or exceed the expectation.
  2. Proactive Observation: Seek information about your team member’s performance on that expectation. Take time to watch your team member working on the goal or task. Create feedback channels so that the team member’s key internal and/or external customers can provide you with their perceptions about goal or task delivery (or progress). Gather and review these data points so you will be confident of the team member’s performance on that expectation.
  3. Consequence Management: Apply the appropriate consequences. If they are doing what they committed to do, praise, encourage, and reward the team member. If they are not doing what they committed to to, engage them in a conversation to understand why progress has not been made. If you learn that it is an ability problem (i.e. circumstances have gotten in the way of their performance on this goal or task or they do not have the skills to complete the task), you may have to renegotiate the deadline, provide training, etc. If you learn it is a motivation problem, coaching, redirection, or even a reprimand will help them learn that you’re watching and you require they deliver on their commitment.

One thought – in most organizations, leaders and employees alike believe they are not praised or encouraged regularly. There are a lot of good things that employees do every day – be sure to praise and encourage legitimate progress towards goal accomplishment. If you are seen as a leader that praises and encourages regularly – as well as coaches and redirects when that’s needed – you will go a long ways towards creating mutual trust and respect.

If you struggle with holding staff members accountable, try this approach. Give it time and stay committed to this accountability strategy. Over time, your staff will learn that when you say something, you mean it, and you will hold them accountable for their agreements. Your employees will be more satisfied, your customers will receive higher quality products and services from your team, and you will not “should” yourself to an early grave!

How well are consequences managed (proactively) in your organization? Do people keep their promises and honor their commitments without consequence management in your company? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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