I recently had a discussion with a group of leaders about accountability. Accountability is a universal challenge for leaders, and yet shares a nebulous definition. During the conversation, a few of the managers revealed that they view holding someone accountable as merely babysitting. Others shared that they see it as micromanaging. For some reason, accountability seems to evoke an almost punitive association. Holding someone accountable isn’t a disciplinary action, a punishment or even micromanagement.
The dictionary defines accountability as: responsible to somebody or for something. Responsible – now that’s a word that evokes a more positive response. To me, being responsible is doing what I say I will do. Being responsible means doing my part and taking ownership.
Over the years I’ve had countless discussions with senior leaders about accountability for patient satisfaction scores. Their approach is not inspirational, motivational or even slightly instructional. It’s punitive. Get the scores up or else! With that tone, panic and defensiveness ensues. People feel beat up and judged. The entire discussion shifts when the conversation becomes about the patient experience. People can relate to their role in improving the patient experience. They can understand that engaging the patient and family will help them feel valued and safe. They can relate to the human experience, not the numbers.
Let’s shift the conversation about accountability. Hold people accountable for a set of non-negotiable behaviors. Train, observe and coach for these standards. Encourage, motivate and model more. The scores will improve along with the consistency in staff behavior.