Taking an honest look at reality can be painful. Especially when doing so may require that you change your own behavior. And yet, that is exactly what happens when, during culture assessments, we discover sacred cows and free passes that are eroding leader credibility and impeding development of a healthy, collaborative, patient and family centered culture.
It’s easy to talk about a great culture and what a patient experience should look like. It’s quite another to set the course toward that culture and make sure every decision is aligned to ensure that it becomes a reality. All too often I see leaders talking about their commitment to the culture and yet not able to see the number of times they are stepping around sacred cows and giving “passes” for bad behavior. This occurs frequently with physicians and leaders who have a unique skill set. It also happens with clinical staff; it is hard to staff positions and shifts. Any time we allow ourselves to believe that someone is indispensable, we are at risk for giving free passes or allowing undesirable behavior to slip in.
One of the most common examples is with physicians who bully staff or are rude to patients. And, by the way, the rudeness isn’t always in how they communicate, but can be in their insistence on double booking which causes huge backlogs and wait times. In a recent focus group with families, I was told of terribly long wait times. Even the patients knew that the physician insisted on double booking. They rolled their eyes and said it was obvious that the physician’s time is considered far more valuable than theirs. And yet this organization touts their patient-centeredness. Free pass.
Then there was the organization that spent over a year recruiting an HR executive only to discover that she had behaviors that were totally inconsistent with service standards. The CEO consistently made excuses for her behavior. Every day that he allowed her to remain in her position (free pass) eroded his own credibility.
When someone is in a hard-to-recruit position, it’s tempting to turn a blind eye to problems. I’ve been there myself. These are the times when I’d catch myself saying things like, “Choose your battles Kris,” when in fact I was ducking and giving passes.
Keep the vision for the culture at the forefront of your decisions. Make sure you remain open to spotting sacred cows and free passes.