Culture produces results—for better or worse. Manage your culture for greater impact.

We are all navigating uncharted waters right now. As COVID-19 evolves and questions remain unanswered, major corporations, small businesses, and individuals alike are doing their best to slow the spread and redefine a “new normal.”

During times like these, reeling from uncertainty is normal. In fact, it’s completely justified. But being consumed by fear and confusion leads to paralysis — not the kind of mindset that helps us move through the uncertainty. It is important for leaders to learn fast and to adapt to emerge from paralysis and develop innovative ways to weather this storm.

The Fallout of COVID-19

Though we have never experienced a pandemic like COVID-19 and don’t know what the fallout will look like, a framework for problem-solving and increasing accountability — individually and jointly — amid uncertainty could provide a pathway forward. We call this framework the Steps To Accountability, and it has helped individuals, teams, and organizations regain a sense of clarity, focus, and control even when the future looks bleak. The Steps To Accountability are rooted in a simple practice: make a personal choice to focus on what we can control instead of becoming fixated on circumstances we have little agency over.

Many things about COVID-19 are beyond our control — but not everything. For example, we can choose how carefully we practice social distancing to help flatten the curve of the virus. We can also choose to access science- and fact-based sources to make more informed decisions. Leaders have a choice to make as well. How they show up during these times — whether they’re consumed by fear or calm and focused — impacts how employees react to crises. Decisions we make everyday impact our businesses, our families, and our own physical and mental wellbeing.

If you’re trying to retain a sense of normalcy, the Steps To Accountability is a powerful, but simple, approach that can help you respond with innovation and solutions instead of becoming overwhelmed by the chaos.

The Steps To Accountability Framework

The Steps To Accountability Framework People who exhibit high levels of increasing accountability see problems and ask, “What can I do to move past this?” rather than saying, “Who is going to fix this?” These questions define the difference between what we call “Above The Line” thinking and “Below The Line” thinking.

When leaders and employees are Below The Line, they focus on what’s out of their control, blaming others, making excuses, and passively waiting for instruction. This behaviour is entirely normal in small doses, but it stifles innovation and forward thinking when it permeates an entire culture. The long-term effects of this thinking can be detrimental. Those who rise Above The Line take accountability for the problems within their control through four steps — See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It.

1. See It

This first step is about acknowledging, without panic or hysteria, the reality of our current crisis and accepting that it is beyond our control.

2. Own It

Once we have addressed the current situation, we can take psychological ownership over it. Ownership allows us to assess and focus on what we can control in an environment where so much is out of our control.

3. Solve It

After we see the challenges and own it, we can find innovative ways to reach the results we want to achieve.

4. Do It

Do It is about follow through and taking action amidst uncertainty. It’s our ability to adapt existing processes and procedures to meet the demands of everevolving situations.

It takes intentional optimism to rise Above The Line. It does not mean we ignore what’s happening around us. It’s about acknowledging the current reality, but also extending optimistic faith that all will work out if we focus on things that we can impact positively.

Finding Community During Times of Crisis While many companies are still surfacing from the shock of COVID-19, others have already begun putting plans into place. Navigating chaos is like paddling down a calm river, only to discover a swirl of rapids around the bend. We can choose to let those rapids disrupt our journey, or we can leverage them to accelerate the speed at which we paddle forward.

The Power of Accountability

When we harness the power of accountability, we see today’s disruption as an opportunity to drive greater operational efficiencies, unleash creative problem solving, and accelerate innovation. As everyone — CEOs, medics and frontline workers, educators, professional services, parents, and beyond — learns to navigate these uncertain times, it’s important to remember that every institution and organisation will evolve at its own pace.

Some will sit in the See It phase for longer, tactfully observing new challenges before devising strategic plans. Others will push forward more quickly, launching new initiatives and promising alliances.

This is no time for judgment, but rather a time for leaders and frontline employees to lift one another up, celebrate the small successes, and, above all, take accountability for the tasks at hand.

Step Up As A Leader

In times of crisis, leaders either step up or step away when managing from afar. Even the simple acts of being more visible, over communicating, or providing additional opportunities become potent elements for remote teams to increase their levels of engage. Ensure you are communicating with your team / organisation through video and blogs regularly, provide the engaging update that shows you care as well as the essential “need to know” updates. While video and blog streams may seem like a simple act, it has significant implications.

Employees’ experiences — whether they are cultivated digitally or in person — directly impact their beliefs. These beliefs inform their actions, and actions drive results. This is the basis of the Results Pyramid, a framework that can help leaders as they transition to remote culture management. Corporate culture — the way employees think and act — is shaped by everyday experiences.

The leader must be intentionally cultivating cultural beliefs centred on employee wellbeing and data security. As remote employees internalise these beliefs, their actions start to align. In accordance with the Results Pyramid model, these experiences are setting up for remote success, driving greater employee engagement, and improving customer satisfaction.