The importance of accountability within your healthcare organization

The importance of accountability within your healthcare organization

"Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses."

-- George Washington Carver

Don’t you hate excuses?  Do you hate it when someone spends 10 minutes telling you why they can’t do something versus trying to figure out how to get the job done?   

I believe accountability is one of the most important principles in a well-functioning health care organization.  It is one of the most basic building blocks that provide the groundwork for building a great team.  Every individual in the organization needs to feel like it is their personal responsibility to make sure patients get excellent care.   

What is accountability? To be accountable is quite simply to accept responsibility. In an organization this is not only the responsibility of one’s actions, but also to accept responsibility of one’s job duties and/or that of his team.  

Accountability starts at the top of an organization and flows down. The entire leadership team must feel a strong sense of ownership for not only their area of responsibility but for the entire organization. If accountability is so important, why then, do so many organizations lack accountability?  Quite simply, accountability is hard work!  It requires 24/7 dedication.  You must be committed 100% of the time to be accountable.   

In one of my hospitals, I remember a young lady new to her role as assistant administrator.  I was also new to this organization.  She came to my office late one evening-maybe 6 or 7 pm, to tell me she was going to the nursing floor to check on a patient complaint we had received earlier in the day.  When she arrived, the patient’s family was unhappy that their mother had not been bathed that day.  This young lady set about working with staff to bath this patient, change this patient’s sheets, and getting her settled for the night.  This is accountability.  She didn’t make excuses.  She didn’t talk about how long her day had been.  She simply set about getting the job done.  I knew then and there she was going to be a great leader!   

Accountability must become part of the entire culture of the organization. Here are five steps you can use to accomplish this.  

Basic steps to achieving accountability: 

1)    Be a role model.  You must role model the behavior you want and hold yourself accountable.   

2)    Communicate expectations. Clearly outlined expectations are a must to creating and enforcing accountability. If a person does not have a clear picture of what is being asked of them on a daily, monthly, weekly, even yearly basis, how can they: a) work toward their goals, b) be held accountable if they do not achieve the goals, or c) be rewarded when achievements are made?

3)    Celebrate successes. This is essential. Successes MUST be recognized and celebrated. This may seem like common sense, but so many times we as leaders are in such a hurry to move on to the next project, that celebrations are overlooked. Celebrating and recognizing the achievements of you team tells your team that you truly appreciate them and it fuels the drive to continue to excel and succeed.  

4)    Team-building exercises. Never underestimate the power of a cohesive and supportive team. We all know what the concept of teamwork entails, but it’s not as easy to create an awesome, high achieving team. It takes time and even a little monetary investment. A strong team is always a worthwhile investment. 

5)    Inspire joy. We are humans who love to feel good. As a leader, you need to take a close look at each person on the team; taking time to really appreciate what talents they bring to the table. Let them know you “see” them and appreciate them and the work that they do.  

It cannot be said enough that none of this works unless you are also holding yourself accountable. You as the leader MUST hold yourself to the highest of all standards.  There are no shortcuts.  Your employees are always watching you and they will take their direction from you—no excuses!

How leaders can better support middle management

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