I often find myself jumping in to try and fix a problem when I see one. That’s my nature. Whether it’s at TGH or an organization through which I volunteer my time, or even at home, I’m quick to respond and do what is needed.
I know my response isn’t always typical. Often folks don’t speak up or fail to act when they notice something isn’t going quite right. This failure to take charge is not unique to the health care industry and is relatively standard across all organizations regardless of sector.
I often wonder why folks don’t step in when they see a problem and work to find a solution? What is the barrier that keeps them from just doing it? Why can’t they independently act to improve a situation?
I think a lot of us would assume that these team members lack focus, discipline, or dedication. But I think that is more the exception than the rule. I would argue that the failure to take charge is a lack of feeling empowered or accountable.
And while accountability is something we often try to dictate, it is not a behavior that is inherent in a significant percentage of the population. The truth is you can’t force someone to feel accountable—just like you can’t turn someone into a faster runner overnight or make them funnier. You can, however, coach them on how to respond to problems and provide them the tools they need to do their job well. When you do this, they will naturally begin to develop a deeper level of accountability and ownership.
How then do you inspire and promote a culture of accountability? The best way I can ensure that this happens is to empower my team not only to solve one-off problems but provide them with the authority, latitude, and encouragement to own their work and their role in the organization. Ultimately, I want them to find solutions and lead projects and programs throughout the organization.
Team members feel empowered to make decisions and to be accountable when they feel heard; that those around them value their opinions and are interested in their ideas. A key ingredient in building a culture of accountability is providing a forum for input, feedback, and collaborations. For me, I found team member forums are an excellent opportunity to give team members a platform to share their thoughts. This space provides folks a forum where they can contribute to the success of the team through feedback. Of course, you won’t be able to act upon everyone’s opinion every time. Still, when people feel like they’re being heard, it goes a long way toward fostering collaboration and heightening engagement.
Often, team members don’t jump in to solve problems, make decisions, or take ownership of a situation because they’re not quite sure if it is their place to do so. They feel like they have to get your approval, or are worried they will make a decision with which you disagree.
The most effective way to solve this problem is to delegate effectively. By this, I don’t mean assigning roles or projects, but communicating with your team that they possess decision making power and are qualified and capable of “making the call” and owning the results.
Finally, fostering a culture of accountability requires that everyone helps to design the road map for the team and that they understand where they fit in and how they can contribute. This sense of engagement will not only increase one’s level of investment but make a team member more compelled to step up and help ensure success.
By nurturing a culture of accountability, you’ll help your team feel a part of something bigger. You’ll increase engagement by providing your team with a new level of autonomy, and you’ll deepen their investment by providing a greater sense of ownership. By letting your team live out the Nike slogan– “just do it”–they will feel like they can and will rise to any challenge—a winning combination for your organization.