Yesterday I had the honor of being the opening keynote speaker for the Wisconsin ACHE annual conference. My topic was on creating a culture of accountability. To get the audience involved, I did a quick poll asking them to share the first word that comes to mind when they hear ‘accountability.’ I’ve attached the word cloud for your review.
The group had a wide variety of responses but the most prevalent one was responsibility followed by ownership, leadership, and results. Other words that surfaced in the poll included: integrity, trust, work, crucial and pain.
I find it fascinating that this single word can evoke such a range of responses, and yet I can fully understand. Accountability can be painful, especially when we’re juggling multiple priorities. But it is also an indicator of ownership, leadership, responsibility and trust.
We use the word accountability frequently in healthcare and understandably so. Without accountability, patients die, infections spread like wildfire, and safety issues explode. No one argues with the need to hold each other accountable for clinical practices. But it gets fuzzy for some leaders when it comes to holding others accountable for service behaviors. They shy away from confronting staff on things like tone of voice or attitude. “It’s just too subjective,” one manager told me. And there it is. The word subjective. The culprit that makes us shrink away from a crucial conversation. Why? We fear that it’s just a matter of opinion. You might even tell yourself, “I’m being too harsh. Too critical. Everyone has their own style.”
Trust your gut. If it feels like an employee’s behavior is out of line, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to address service issues on the spot. It will be far more meaningful to the individual you are coaching. Describe what you observed, how it compares to the desired behavior, and demonstrate the correct way.
Not saying anything is actually making it okay. Remember, what you permit you promote.