From a coach’s perspective, it seems that the healthcare industry is in the midst of an accountability crisis.
Lack of accountability within clinical healthcare practices has created significant frustration and concern for doctor/owners, and has become one of the primary reasons doctors seek the counsel of professional, executive healthcare coaches.
“How can I hold my team accountable?” is a question commonly asked by my coaching clients. My response, like any good coach, comes in the form of a question – “To whom would you like them to be accountable, and what do you want them to be accountable for?” These questions are commonly followed by long periods of silence on the part of the doctor.
If we accept that fact that accountability is a personal choice, then we begin to see the reality that we cannot hold anyone accountable. They must choose it for themselves. Our job is to help them see the benefit of making the right choice and giving them tangible accountability benchmarks as guidelines.
It has been my experience that the best possible benchmarks for team accountability are our organization’s core values. These are not the same core values that we throw together and condemn to a frame on the wall, never to be mentioned again. The core values to which I am referring are thoughtfully created by our doctors and team and brought to life by honoring them in our daily interactions with our patients and fellow team members.
Once we develop our core values, everyone who participated in creating them, including the doctors, must agree that they will be personally accountable to acting in alignment with these values. They must also agree to allow their fellow team members and doctors to serve as their accountability partners by questioning them when their actions appear to contradict their shared values.
From the doctor’s perspective, making these mutually shared values an essential part of the practice culture and daily life serves two purposes:
- First, the doctor no longer must deal with the difficult conversations and conflict created by lack of accountability. Once living in harmony with the practice, values practice’s values becomes a way of life for the team – everyone begins to appreciate and fully understand what is expected of them. Actions that are seemingly contradictory to the practice’s values and lack accountability are brought to the perpetrator’s awareness with a simple question, “How is this action aligned to our practice values?”
- Secondly, every choice has consequences, and if accountability is a choice, then so is working in our office. Once the core values have become a way of life, anyone who consistently chooses to disregard their pledge to live by these values is also choosing not work in our practice. We, the doctors, no longer must terminate employees. We simply ask them to choose between living the practice values or finding another place to work.
Finally, if the doctor serves as the role model for living the values, the staff will follow the doctor’s lead. Over time, there will be a demonstrable transformation in the practice culture and individual accountability. The staff will become so committed to the practice culture that they will serve as guardians of the culture and ensure that future team members share the practice’s core values.