We recently had the pleasure of attending a presentation facilitated by Mike Scott where we discussed what is involved in being accountable, and how to improve accountability in our practice. Mike emphasized a definition of accountability – “doing what you said you would do, as you said you would do it, when you said you would do it – with no surprises.” This seems so simple until we step back and realize the level of tolerance we all exhibit for “non-accountable” people in our everyday lives. In encounter after encounter we deal with people who do not feel that they need to be accountable or do not understand accountability. This leads to a spiral of negativity and higher stress for everyone involved. These are the folks who answer a question with “whatever”, don’t show up on time and leave jobs unfinished or poorly done. They leave us unsatisfied and wondering if they can be trusted.
Mike used an example of two boxes, one inside the other. The outside box is the amount of time and effort we expend on tolerance of less than ideal behavior and the inner box is the level of accountability in your life or your practice. The larger the inner box is the less time and stress is wasted in your life.
How do we create an “accountable environment”? It starts with assessing our own behavior. What is our tolerance level? How do we express ourselves when others exhibit less than ideal behavior? Do we have the emotional intelligence to see the cause of the behavior and our response to it? What is the tolerance we expect of others? When our desk is piled high with journals and correspondence and staff is looking for an answer to a case question somewhere on the desk, are we exhibiting accountable behavior?
Accountability starts with the leader of the practice. It has nothing to do with being ”tough” or demanding. It starts with modeling the behavior you expect from others. Start in small ways to live the definition of being accountable. If you cannot deliver on your commitment be the first to talk to those involved and offer solutions to get to the goal. When others miss a deadline DO NOT ASK WHY. Asking why allows the person to have an excuse. Instead ask what is their next step to get the job done? When will that be? And can I count on you? Empower your staff to take creative action and let them know that you “have their back”.
Some steps to move toward higher levels of accountability are:
Model the behavior you expect from others. When you discover you have been tolerating non-performers help them find another career. There is far less stress in training a motivated performer than in dealing with the daily “surprises” and excuses of a non-performer.
Grow the level of accountability by making time to train yourself and your staff. Celebrate success and communicate openly and clearly about being accountable. Use agendas and checklists for meetings and create action items and accountability lists – these are all available on the web.
You set the “culture” of your practice. Be accountable and raise the standard of care for all.