Calling Out The Gold Organizationally

When dealing in the non-profit space, there is a tendency for things to move slower than they should and for inner-organizational accountability not to exist. The way I’ve seen this play out is:

  1. Person A is given a task
  2. task isn’t completed in a timely and efficient manner
  3. Person B wonders about the situation
  4. Person B chooses not to hold the person accountable under the guise of Grace
  5. Person A is never held to a standard and doesn’t feel the need to improve

There are some obvious problems here. Let’s start with Grace. Grace is something you give when someone fails, not when someone never fails. We all know that, but we don’t use that as our working definition. Here’s what I mean: when you never ask someone about a situation because you’re showing them grace, what you’ve done instead is make no room for them to admit failure. No accountability from others means no place to admit failure. If you don’t ever admit failure, then no one can ever show you grace. An atmosphere of grace is created when we make room for people to fail, and then be trusted with the same thing again. When people feel the freedom to fail it allows us to begin pushing the boundaries of what we are capable of, and increase our capacity. We’ve dealt a blow to an unhealthy ungraceful culture when we feel we can have some honest conversations about our failures with those who hold us accountable and know that it’s out of love, not anger, that they’re asking us those questions, because they want us to get, and be, better.

This is why organizations need things like improved processes, better communication structures, goals, strategy, and best practices. Not because we’re a machine, but exactly the opposite. Because we rely on grace and when I fail I actually want someone to know and then trust me with that responsibility again so that I can grow. That’s what grace does. We need the systems and structures not because we’re graceless or uncaring, but because they develop a need for grace and opportunities to show that we care.

This is organizational accountability at it’s best. I don’t hold someone accountable by saying “it’s ok” when they confess that they missed the mark. I hold someone accountable to who they really are and tell them that living below that isn’t ok. Missing it is simply living below who you are. I just need to remind them of who they are, that’s the context for why they should or shouldn’t do certain things anyway. Systems do that to an organization. Managing to what good looks like. Pushing for better, going from good to great. As one friend put it, it’s “calling out the gold organizationally”. If you’re working at the right place, then the mission is extremely important. We should work on efficiency and effectiveness as much as, if not more than, any of the larger “good” business we see.

Is your organizations culture one of grace? How much work do you put into improving processes and making your organization run more efficiently?