Accountability and Consequences

Accountability And ConsequencesAs many of you may know, one of billionaire Warren Buffett’s top executives, Denis Abrams, CEO of Benjamin Moore, was given a “pink slip” after he and some of his other senior employees took off on a reward getaway to Bermuda at company expense.

According to a NY Post exclusive, Abrams was ousted as CEO after word spread that he held a lavish party aboard a yacht in Bermuda.  In the article the NY Post said, Mr. Abrams had arranged the trip to the island to celebrate the paint company achieving its first quarterly sales increase since 2007.  Also according to the NY Post article, several weeks ago Berkshire officials arrived at Benjamin Moore’s headquarters to fire Mr. Abrams and escort him from the building.

When I heard this story on CNN, read the internet comments, and reviewed the NY Post article, I realized how positive this “consequences and accountability” message is for Benjamin Moore and Berkshire.  I must say that I applaud Warren Buffett for taking a strong stand, “walking the talk,” in this instance.  This sends a message to every leader in the entire enterprise that this kind of extravagance is unacceptable under any circumstances — despite achieving its first quarterly sales increase in over four years.

It is astounding to me how often executives ask for A but reward for B and then don’t understand how they end up with less than stellar results.  (There is an outstanding article written about this – “On the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B” by Steven Kerr (The Academy of Management Executive; Feb 1995; 9, 1; ABI/INFORM Global  pg. 7.)

It takes a great deal of integrity, courage, confidence and care for people (aka Leadership Credibility) to instill a culture of accountability and consequence.

Some examples of where leaders get it right:

    • My coachee’s boss recently went on vacation and put the coachee in a “Team Leader” role while he was gone to show others on the team that, as the boss, he believes in this person’s progress and that individuals on his team will be rewarded and acknowledged for their efforts to improve and grow.  Everyone on the team understood the message the boss was sending.
    • The boss of the boss of one of my coachees recently gave her an opportunity to head up an important internal committee that would not have been open to her if she had not made changes.  The point made is that the organization is rewarding positive efforts rather than holding a person back for past mistakes.  Everyone understands the implication.

Some examples of where leaders get it “wrong”:

  • Promoting a leader who is known in the organization to be incredibly smart and stellar at meeting goals but consistently treats people with disrespect and causes fear in the organization.
  • Having secret meetings behind closed doors about the destructive behavior of a particular team member and then never speaking directly to the person about their behavior and how they need to improve their behavior in order to continue to have a role in the organization.


What are you doing as a leader to instill a culture of accountability and consequence?

Have you seen instances in your organization whereby leaders let matters slide?  How did that make you feel?

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