Peak Performance:   Tips You Can Use
Volume 8,  Issue 3
March 2016
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Creating a Culture of Accountability
The topics of culture and accountability have recently gained popularity. Business owners are developing an understanding of how culture and accountability affects business performance.
When thinking of their employees, most practice owners and managers want the same thing. They want team members who perform their job well and excel at client service and patient care. Practice leaders want employees who are engaged. They want staff that takes ownership of their roles within the practice. Business owners and managers want people who care about the practice, teammates, clients, patients and the job they do. Many owners and managers believe that if team members will just care about what they are doing, then being accountable for personal performance will come naturally. But often it is not an issue of whether or not the employee cares. It is a problem stemming from a dysfunctional culture, lack of clear expectations, lack of leadership, failure to monitor/measure results and/or a failure to provide adequate and timely training/feedback.
Practice leaders become confused when they see a lack of accountability. This is especially true if the leader feels that all of the needed tools and resources to be a success are in place. In addition, knowing that their employees are adults leads to a belief that an excessive amount of "hand holding" or "forcing" someone to do their duties should be unnecessary. For many owners and managers, these feelings can lead to a high level of frustration.
For team members, the concept of being accountable often brings with it the perception of something negative. Team members will often think of accountability as not being trusted to perform their duties, having someone constantly watching over their shoulder, or being micromanaged. Name any negative aspect of responsibility and you will have what most people envision when they think of the concept of accountability.
Take heart in knowing that these two perspectives about accountability do not have to reflect your practice. Practice leaders and team members can take an active part in changing negative connotations about accountability into positive and rewarding initiatives within the hospital.   
The desire to pursue high levels of personal accountability is something that comes from within each of us. It is something that each individual must commit to strive for. Once that commitment is in place, there are things the practice leaders must do to foster positive growth in this area.  
The leaders and entire practice team must operate from the same defined purpose. Beyond the purpose of the business, all team members must know the vision, mission, and core values of the practice. Each individual must understand how their active participation is vital to successfully meeting the established vision, mission and core values. The actions and words must resonate with the team. They need to know how their role is part of the practice's achievements and that they matter.
Once the purpose, vision, mission and core values are established, the foundation has been laid. From this foundation the team will further define and shape the culture. It is important to understand that everyone within the practice contributes to the culture. What is culture? It is the assumptions, beliefs and values that have been created (and reinforced) throughout the existence of the business. Culture is everything from the way people dress to the internal language that is spoken and mannerisms demonstrated. The culture of the practice can be summed up as the written and unwritten rules of "how we do things here." To enhance personal accountability, a clear understanding of the culture of the organization is crucial. Knowing the underlying current of the practice enables the leaders to identify many of the positive aspects that benefit or obstacles that can hinder improving accountability.  
The specific, sometimes challenging steps to implementing a culture of accountability are:  
  • Set clear and meaningful expectations
  • Invite individuals to commit
  • Measure progress
  • Provide informal and formal feedback
  • Link to consequences and rewards
  • Continually evaluate effectiveness 
Clearly defined expectations are vital to enhancing personal accountability. No one can perform satisfactorily if they don't know what the expectations are. Tools to help develop clearly defined expectations include:
  • Employee handbook
  • Written standard operating procedures
  • Training handbooks specific to the different positions within the practice
  • Written medical standards of care
  • Explicitly defined standards for: communication, conflict resolution, client services, etc. 
These resources are imperative to success. It is important for these tools to be taken beyond just being documents that sit on a shelf. They need to be utilized for the initial and on-going development of the entire team. These resources need to be imbedded in the culture of the practice. Each resource outlines and clarifies, "how we do things here." Remember: you cannot expect staff to read your mind. Unsuccessful employer-employee relationships are not the fault of the employee alone. Quite often the fault lies on both sets of shoulders due to a lack of defined, verbalized and understood expectations.
How will you know if you have a team of people that excel at personal accountability? It's when you look around and see a self-managed work team. The team knows what they are supposed to do and when. They carry out the vision, mission and core values of the practice on a daily basis. The team will be comprised of individuals where each person exercises leadership. They make things happen and get things done. The team is competent, committed, well-trained and engaged.
What is the ultimate test for knowing that you have a team of people who feel accountable for the results they produce? You will see daily acts of happiness, kindness, competence, empowerment and self-management in an environment that is rewarding and positive. In addition, you will see well-educated, happy and loyal clients with pets that receive an exceptional level of care from your entire practice team. This will be the team that you have put together, trained, inspired and empowered to perform to an outstanding level, and of which you can feel proud.  
Summit Veterinary Advisors, LLC