Staff texting at work? There needs to be a policy. Employees
parking in prime patient areas? Make a policy. People walking past trash?
Create a policy. The problem is, policies are only as effective as their
enforcement and do nothing to engage the heart.
I was recently talking with a group of senior leaders about
their current culture. They were clearly frustrated and felt they had come to a
standstill. Things were not where they needed to be with regards to both
patient satisfaction and employee engagement. They all agreed that
accountability was their biggest issue.
The group talked openly about specific behaviors that were
problematic. As I probed into their frustrations, a clear picture began to
emerge. Each time one of them would identify a problem, someone would declare
the need for a policy. And each time, the rest of the group would agree that a
policy was the way to go. I observed this happen five times during the first
hour. I was curious to see if the suggestion of a policy was an isolated
incident or a pattern. It was clearly a pattern.
Indeed, accountability was a problem, but the leaders’
accepted solution was always to create a policy rather than address the behaviors
directly when proved to be misaligned with values or standards.
Let me be clear. There is a place for policies. Without them,
we would have havoc. But when striving for a culture of excellence, leaders
need more than policies. You can’t "policy” people’s hearts. I, personally,
would rather foster a culture where people take ownership and do things because
it’s the right thing to do rather than because it’s the policy.
Transformational leadership is a style that engages people’s
hearts and helps them feel part of the cause. To me, this is what is often
missing in the quest for service excellence. A lot of time is put into
establishing policies and executing tactics from a checklist of best practices,
but not enough effort is put into engaging people’s hearts.
Healthcare is a service industry. The work that happens each
and every day is perfect for cultivating a link to the heart. People working in
healthcare are typically caring individuals with a desire to make a difference.
The leader’s role is to harness this passion and help make the connection
between the "job” and the individual’s sense of purpose. Tell stories. Review
the history of the organization and the vision. Talk regularly about the
mission, vision, and values, and help leaders at all levels learn to speak the
language of these mission, vision, and values.
When the leader’s focus is on doing the right things for the
right reasons, the heart of the organization swells with pride and purpose.
It’s not the policies that will resonate with people’s hearts, it’s the
passion. Remember that creating and sustaining a culture of excellence takes
vision, structure, and, above all, a heart for service.
Kristin Baird is
President/CEO of the Baird Group, a healthcare
consulting and mystery shopping firm. The Baird Group works to improve healthcare
organizations’ patient experiences from start to finish, providing a thorough
assessment, qualitative and quantitative data analysis, training, and strategies
to help bridge the gap between brand promise and the current reality. For more
information on today’s guest blogger, visit baird-group.com.