04. From Blame to Learning: Exploring the Power of Just Culture with Julie Stephenson

What happens in your organization when someone makes a mistake? 

Is the process about blame and punishment? Or is it about shared accountability for systems and recognizing the humanity of those involved?

Today, my guest, Julie Stephenson, and I are diving into the concept of building a Just Culture.

A Just Culture radically shifts the approach to accountability from punishment to taking the time to understand root causes, treating employees as whole individuals, and acknowledging their outside commitments. A Just Culture is one where organizations take responsibility for their systems and respond to employees with fairness and equity.

But implementing a Just Culture isn’t without challenges and resistance to change.

Julie and I discuss what happened at the hospital she works with as they began to move toward a Just Culture. We’ll talk about the difference between mistakes and reckless behavior, as well as the value of curiosity and questioning when assessing risk awareness, the systemic impacts of individual actions, and the importance of understanding the broader context of personal decisions.

Join us for a deep dive into how Just Culture can transform workplace environments, promote shared accountability, and enhance the overall quality of service.


  • How indirect and cultural messages within an organization impact the perception of acceptable behaviors
  • How Just Culture brings accountability to implicit and explicit systems that impact employee behavior
  • Why implementing a Just Culture model improves how employees show up at work
  • Challenges and roadblocks that come up when moving to a Just Culture
  • Three reasons why people follow rules, and why avoiding punishment and sanction isn’t enough
  • The fundamental difference between true mistakes and risky behaviors

more about my guest, Julie stephenson:

Julie Stephenson’s commitment to and passion for conversations that move organizations toward a healthier and more human place to live, work and learn have guided her entire career. Currently, she supports a critical access hospital in southwestern Wisconsin as a certified coach and Just Culture leader. Her most recent creative endeavor includes The Water We Swim In series and The Lab – a cultural and storytelling experiment she co-created. This work de-stigmatizes mental health, normalizes sharing stories, and honors the lived experiences of our friends and neighbors in southwestern Wisconsin.

In 2018, Julie founded Compounding Courage to create a movement inspired by Mr. Rogers’s wise words, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”



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