Coaching Your Team toward Greater Accountability + Ownership
Last week, we worked to take greater ownership in charting our course, adopting the role of CEO of our lives. Just as we must take on the role of a highly engaged, motivated, and attentive executive to manage our own time, resources, and energy well, so, too, we must step into greater focus, intention, and connection in our role as leader to get the very best out of our teams.
We have been given a great responsibility as the leaders of our departments and teams and we must recognize and acknowledge the weight of that great responsibility in order to steward it appropriately.
Our teams are counting on us to help create an environment that is ideal for each employee to thrive, allows for each individual to build and develop their skills, and opens the door for each employee to leave a greater legacy through meaningful and fulfilling work.
Our roles as leaders can have such a powerful impact on the quality of our team’s lives and their desire to stay with our organization long term. We want to step into that CEO mentality as the leaders of our departments as much as we do as leaders of our own lives, and with that agency and empowered responsibility, we can begin to advocate for our teams, make meaningful, positive change, and improve the outcomes of the patients we’re blessed to serve.
The TalentTracks leadership library from HealthStream gives us 9 steps toward stewarding our teams well and taking greater ownership for the outcomes of our department in their 30 minute course: “Leading Performance and Driving Accountability.”
Here are the 9 steps we can use to coach our teams toward bringing their very best every day and building a culture of excellence:
1) Define Clear Goals: As with our own personal leadership, we must start with a clearly defined vision and Why behind what we are trying to do. We must imagine an ideal future and set inspiring goals to help us achieve that end. The course encourages us to ensure all of our goals are:
Strategic: supporting key initiatives set forth for the entire organization, often in key pillars such as people, service, quality/operations, finance, growth
Aligned: key organization-wide goals are established by senior leaders, then each department must create goals for their domain that support the key functions of their service line, yet still serve the greater, overarching goals for the health system
SMART: goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound to have the greatest impact
Consistent: goals must be fair across all stakeholder groups. For example, if one team is starting at the 14th percentile of a key metric and another team is starting at the 48th percentile, they will not get an equal push when setting a goal to hit the 50th percentile on that measurement. We want to craft our goals in a way that allows for equal challenge and motivation (and hope for a positive outcome) for all involved.
2) Hire the Right People: To be maximally successful as a team, our first and most important step is simply hiring the right people in the first place. We must devote great care to hiring the right person for the right position at the right time.
Our work in the Leadership Quest setting the foundation for success at Trinity Health can guide us to recruit candidates that are best able to help build our desired future. We are now deeply familiar with the key traits of ideal future leaders in our health system and know the behaviors, attitudes, and motivations it will take to allow our ambitious goals to get done.
To help create the best cultural fit, we can employ:
Behavioral based interviewing: providing specific questions to candidates about past experiences and how they’ve navigated difficult experiences in previous roles
Peer interviewing: allowing staff currently employed in the department to participate in interviews to ensure the candidate will fit well into the mix
3) Set Clear Expectations: We can’t possibly hold anyone accountable if they don’t know the standards they are aiming to hit. From the very beginning of the hiring process, we must establish clear expectations for the role and we must continue to follow up with each new hire to ensure that we are consistent throughout our processes.
Here are a few things we can inquire:
Does the everyday lived experience match what was promised in the interview?
How well do we onboard?
How well do we set expectations?
How well do we get new hires up to speed?
Are we consistent in our approach?
How do we increase the confidence of new hires?
Even if we haven’t had strong, consistent expectations throughout, we can always regroup with our teams and set a new beginning for what it is we’re building and what we’ll need from each teammate to succeed.
4) Foster Competence: Once we’ve hired the right people and set the right expectations, we need to help foster their competence.
There are several stages of competence from Novice to Expert. As we move through each stage, we gain more knowledge, experience, and confidence. In fact, confidence is a precursor to competence so building confidence is a key way to foster competence.
Take a moment to consider where you are in your career:
As we help coach our teams toward greater levels of confidence and competence, it’s important to understand how that competence builds:
Unconsciously incompetent: you don’t know what you don’t know
Consciously incompetent: you know what you don’t know
Consciously competent: you know what you are doing
Unconsciously competent: you know what you are doing without thinking about it
We’ve all worked through new skills and seen our abilities grow through this same process.
As leaders, we need to extend understanding and patience and accept that not everyone is an expert (especially at the beginning). Competency is a fluid, dynamic process and as we help to build it in our teams, all of the personal attention, guidance, and coaching we can provide along the way becomes even more valuable as our teams work to grow and develop their skills.
5) Communicate Effectively: Clear and consistent communication helps foster confidence and builds trust. Unfortunately, people today are very busy and easily distracted, so as leaders we may believe something’s been adequately communicated, but really, our teams might need to hear something up to seven times before taking action and changing their behavior.
To be most effective, we need to communicate important messages at least seven times, and in different ways. As leaders we can communicate via bulletin boards, newsletters, email, texting, staff meetings, huddles, rounding, and webinars. The key is to continue to communicate as many times as needed to help adequately express the adjusted expectation and change and develop the desired behavior.
6) Reward, Recognize, and Motivate: In order to get the very best from our teams, we also need to be sure we stop to celebrate and acknowledge what’s going well.
All of us crave positive feedback and appreciation from others, yet we’re often so caught up in the daily hustle or striving toward bigger goals that we don’t stop to reward great achievements along the way. Sadly, only 10% of adults say thank you to a colleague during the day, yet a simple “thank you” can go a really long way!
We need to build in systems and processes for easily recognizing our coworkers and peers and need to normalize a culture of recognition in all levels of the organization. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a moment to say thank you to a colleague, take a moment now to send a quick note of thanks with this simple template.
In addition to thanks and praise, as leaders, another key role we play is to motivate.
Recognition and reward help keep us moving towards our goals, but we are also driven by three key ends:
Autonomy: responsibility and control over our work
Mastery: the opportunity to become better at something
Purpose: connection to something bigger
If you’re looking to help re-ignite the fire in your team, start with a baseline of gratitude and praise. Then, dig deeper with one of these key motivators and work with your direct reports to build a plan for how they can achieve what’s most meaningful to them.
7) Measure Progress and Performance: Performance evaluations are the key tool we have as leaders to help us and our direct reports determine if they are performing and developing as expected, and what, if any, help may be needed to help them reach their goals.
Though performance evaluations are not necessarily comfortable for either the leader or the direct report, we must find a way to learn how to do performance evaluations well.
To improve fairness and accuracy of the performance evaluation process, we can consider these four things:
Focus on outcomes: too often, our ratings in reviews are based on positive attributes and effort, not outcomes or results. But, if our employee does not have concrete progress to show for the work, we might need to make adjustments to their role, help them develop new skills, or re-evaluate our goals.
Frequency of performance discussions: Performance should be discussed throughout the year, not just once. Increased touch-points allow for improved communication and rapport and fixing small problems and making tiny tweaks to a process or system early on can prevent problems from getting out of hand.
Joint planning of goals and priorities: A key improvement we can make is allowing employees to help plan their own goals and priorities. When they are involved in the goal setting process, they have greater buy-in and are more likely to achieve what was established.
Leader’s knowledge of employee responsibilities and performance: As leaders, we need to be in tune with what our teams are doing! We need to be well versed in each person’s role and aware of what winning looks like for each position. That clarity is key to keeping our department producing and running smoothly.
8) Hold Everyone Accountable: To foster greater ownership and increase our successful outcomes, we must build in systems and structures to keep people accountable to their goals.
As leaders, we need to cultivate an environment where each person has become the CEO of their life and their work and feels pride and accomplishment in hitting their marks.
To help build this culture of ownership and accountability, we can be sure we:
Establish performance standards early: setting the tone for how work is done in the organization, what we mean when we say “servant leadership” and “exceptional patient service,” and what key behaviors and attitudes are non-negotiable as part of this team
Provide real-time feedback: if we see a behavior that needs correcting, we need to be sure to address it right away rather than waiting for the next performance evaluation. This allows our team to make important adjustments as they go and allows teammates to learn from the corrections, too, improving the work of the entire group.
Recognize behavior you would like to see repeated: when our teams are meeting expectations and doing key behaviors we’ve deemed as essential, we must notice, celebrate, and provide coaching and positive encouragement around that behavior.
Holding our teams accountable and building that pride of ownership and investment in the outcome cannot be solely driven by the negative and what’s going wrong. We will be just as successful (if not more-so!) if we positively encourage what we want to see more of rather than using accountability as a punishment or reprimanding device.
You’ll find your high achievers CRAVE your feedback and appreciate being called out when doing something right and your recognition will drive their effort and investment even more.
The course notes that on the weakest teams, there is no accountability. On a mediocre team, the boss is the source of accountability. On high performing teams, peers (and individuals) hold each other (and themselves) accountable.
Who is accountable in your department? If no one, or the boss, is accountable in your department, you can work to build on these practices to ensure everyone is committed to bringing their best and achieving the highest outcome everyday.
9) Continuously Coach: As always, the work of helping to develop our teams is not a “one-and-done” assignment. Building a great team that is delivering exceptional service and outcomes and creating an environment where each employee contributes and thrives will take a consistent commitment to noticing, celebrating, guiding, and coaching our employees in their work.
Performance excellence is a journey that does not end, we just continue to grow and seek greater summits as we go.
If you’re looking to build more accountability, ownership, and effectiveness in your team, take 30 minutes to review this “Leading Performance and Driving Accountability” course from TalentTracks and then brainstorm how you can better integrate these suggestions to support and develop your team.
Embrace the challenge of taking your team to the next level and have fun in the process of working together to continue “Making More Possible” and lifting our organization even higher.