That’s just Jenny – and other culture-killing excuses

Posted by Kristin Baird

I see it all the time -The beautifully framed statements of “commitment to service” hanging within arm’s reach of the organization’s biggest standards contradictions.

It happened just two weeks ago when I was visiting a healthcare organization that was struggling with poor scores and negative social media comments.

Their leaders, proud of the standards that they created and distributed to every employee. The “training” had consisted of reading through the standards at staff meetings with the expectation that the department managers would “enforce” them.

I learned all this after witnessing underwhelming service at every turn.

In one instance, I had been waiting in a registration area before a meeting. I noticed a beautifully framed poster entitled “Our Commitment to Service”.

Reading through the commitments, I was impressed with how comprehensive and patient-centered they were.

While I sat waiting, I observed that “Jenny,” the Customer Service Representative in registration, demonstrate the antithesis of the promises set forth on the poster.

She never looked up until someone was directly in front of her, nor did she smile when asking, “How can I help you?” in her monotone voice.  When giving directions, she just pointed.

When I mentioned my observations to the registration manager, she said two things that spoke volumes about the culture. They were:

  1. “That’s just Jenny.” In other words, everyone around Jenny should understand that what you see is what you get, even if her behavior is a stark contrast to the organization’s stated commitments. There was no accountability for aligning behaviors with the commitments.
  2. “But she’s so good at her job.” Meaning that her job has been defined as anything but customer service. I learned that being good at her job meant that she collected accurate information during registration that led to more accurate billing. I get that the data is vital in the revenue cycle, but so is the customer experience. In this organization, the accurate data was valued far more than human. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

My message to the leaders about their standards was; don’t make promises you can’t keep. But if you want to keep the promises you make, you will need to increase employee engagement and hold everyone accountable.

Engagement in the standards

To engage staff in the standards, it takes more than an edict from above.

  • Talk about the standard during meetings and huddles. Stress how every person has an opportunity to live the standard as part of his/her job.
  • Ask them how the standard applies to their role and what they do to live the standard every day in every encounter

Accountability for the standards

To build a culture of accountability:

  • Be clear about your expectations
  • Let staff know you will be observing them and giving feedback
  • Make rounds and follow through
  • Share stories of your observations
  • Be consistent in your expectations and don’t settle for excuses that you’ve been making for poor behavior

It can be a challenge for managers to take the necessary steps. But in our coaching, we’ve seen leaders grow in their confidence and competence in giving feedback and holding others accountable. The results are amazing.

  1. It’s not what you EXPECT, it’s what you INSPECT
  2. Leaders: Are you what you say you are?
  3. Are Your Standards just a Suggestion?
  4. Nobody Tells Me Anything Around Here
  5. Accountability Can’t Be Optional
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