Accountability: Are You the Problem?

The difference between mediocre workers and top performers is not the goals they set but rather the accountability they have for achieving their goals. I often find that lack of accountability is the one thing most likely to impede progress. If you want to demonstrate that being a patient-centered organization is a top priority, much of the work is pretty straightforward. It usually involves the following:

  • Setting clear, specific goals
  • Communicating goals and progress regularly
  • Providing tools and processes to help staff achieve the goals
  • Holding everyone accountable for results

Most organizations do well on the first three. But it’s the accountability part that often falls by the wayside.

Consider this unfortunately common example: Your organization establishes goals for patient satisfaction results based on a benchmarked survey. You communicate specific survey goals and emphasize that any results falling below a certain level will need to be addressed within a pre-determined timeframe, or some sanction will occur. You then train everyone on specific standards of behavior that should ensure consistency in the patient experience at every touch point in the organization. Then you begin measuring and reviewing results, and you see that some results aren’t meeting those thresholds. What happens next?

Often nothing.

Administrators know of these shortcomings as well. When we meet with them, nine out of ten times they will tell us that accountability is their greatest challenge. It’s not the planning. Or the goal-setting. It’s not even communication or training. It’s consistently and visibly holding everyone in the organization accountable to the established goals. The dilemma is that leaders want to train and empower, not babysit. And yet, if they don’t demonstrate vigilance, low performers will continue to fly under the radar but not unnoticed by their peers, and high performers will become discouraged by the inconsistency. 

Addressing Accountability as a Leader

While we know this instinctively, accountability is often the hardest thing about leadership. We fall back on our seemingly innate tendency to ignore, delay, or look the other way when it comes to addressing the lack of alignment between our stated goals and objectives and the actual behaviors that occur within our organizations. As leaders, we erode our credibility when we fail to hold people accountable for actions and results. The same applies when we fail to recognize great work. Consider these questions:

  • If I’m doing great work and consistently exceeding patient expectations, but nobody ever acknowledges the work I’m doing, how likely am I to continue in my efforts?
  • If I’m not doing great work and consistently not meeting patient expectations, but nobody ever talks to me about my actions, how likely is it that I will continue along the same path?

We all know the answers, yet too often we persist in overlooking both the positive and the negative events that are shaping our organizations’ cultures. Lack of accountability causes exceptional employees to become disengaged or leave. Yet the marginally engaged employees stay, perpetuating mediocre service to patients. 

Are You the Problem?

Healthcare leaders must step up to the plate to improve accountability if they want to create and sustain a patient-centered culture. Accountability starts and ends with you! How do you rate in the accountability area? The first step: diagnosing whether you suffer from the accountability failure disease. Here are four questions to do just that: 

  1. Do you meet with your team members regularly to discuss goals and tactics for achieving goals?
  2. When you observe or hear about an employee that has gone above and beyond to exceed patient expectations, do you acknowledge that employee’s actions on the spot?
  3. When you observe or hear about an employee that has failed to meet customer service standards, do you address that employee’s behavior?
  4. Do you regularly make rounds and talk with employees about service goals?

This is a pass/fail assessment. If you said “no,” to even one of these questions, you have an accountability deficiency. The good news is – you can do something about it. Turning the corner on accountability is as easy as walking around, observing, and commenting on what you see. When people see you showing up in their departments and taking an interest in what they are doing to achieve the goals, you send a strong message that service is a priority, not just lip service. And that you will hold everyone accountable.

To help keep patient satisfaction scores high, we’ve developed a unique training program for directors, managers, and supervisors called The Power of One. The training first focuses on leaders teaching them to coach, mentor, model, manage and even hire to build and sustain a culture of service excellence. To learn more contact us today at (866) 686-7672 or Or schedule a free 30-minute consultation with us here

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