By: Lisa Hompe MSOD, BSN, ACC
In the current healthcare climate of uncertainty, complexity, and change, how do we manage accountability? That is a question I often asked myself as a former healthcare leader managing a very busy ambulatory surgery center, and a question that I frequently encounter as I coach other healthcare leaders. In my previous leadership role, I was often faced with the dilemma and tension of holding oneself and others accountable. Accountability can have various meanings to different individuals, teams, and organizations, and is often rooted in organizational culture, norms, and behaviors.
As a leader, when the work was stressful or challenging, I noticed my own internal challenge of wanting to take the path of least resistance. I found it was easier to delegate to those people who were more willing to take on additional tasks while avoiding those that were less interested or approachable. According to Harvard Business Review, recent data shows it is a common dilemma leaders face in holding others accountable successfully. Difficult conversations and creating an environment of accountability require a thoughtful and intentional approach. Approaching things with diplomacy and candor can help to create awareness and develop teams.
What was I showing and modeling to my team by not having these crucial conversations? I realized as a leader, I was doing a disservice to those that needed to grow and learn. How was I holding myself accountable? When difficult conversations needed to take place for undesirable behavior or actions, I may have been unintentionally communicating that only a select few of the team were capable. Self-awareness is a first step and a key leadership and emotional intelligence competency.
I believe no one intends to go to work every day creating problems and issues. The stressors currently impacting many healthcare workers place undue burdens on an already constrained and overtaxed system. This context can lead to undesirable or suboptimal behavior. It may be possible that leaders are unknowingly playing a part in perpetuating a lack of accountability with individuals and teams. If we’re honest with ourselves and our teams, we all have blind spots. What we model matters. It is possible to consider the well-being of others, while holding them responsible for their actions. I learned that having crucial conversations and asking others to step up creates an environment of shared interests; it creates an environment where everyone feels heard and valued, willing to show up and do their best. I encourage all leaders to take notice of how working with team members to create shared accountability and responsibility helps foster a more positive work environment.
For yourself, look at what you can control-
- Assume positive intentions for all individuals
- Notice who and how often you may be tapping into? Are they often the same people?
- Check yourself. Did you have all the correct data and facts before you acted? Ask yourself, what if the opposite were true?
- What is the intention of your messages? And how does your communication impact others?
For your team, start with open dialogue and conversations-
- Intentionally create coaching conversations. Learn to ask open-ended questions in a psychologically safe environment
- Listen and be open and curious for the answers your team is providing
- Be clear on roles and responsibilities and get feedback if people need more clarity, communication, or training
- Embrace the challenge and use the support of a coach or colleague
This is simple but not always easy. Learning to manage these leadership challenges can make a world of difference. How you define accountability reflects the agreements and commitments you are willing to make. What are you committed to? How do you support and grow others to be aware of their behavior and actions? What is the culture you intentionally want to create for your team and the broader organization? Part 2 of the series will address creating a positive culture in the current healthcare environment. If you’d like to learn how to increase the accountability of your team while holding yourself accountable in a courageous and compassionate way, contact sixseedpartners for more information.