Are you being told to “hold your staff accountable”? Does it make you feel good about your leadership? If you're like me, the answer is no. Holding people accountable is akin to transactional leadership; in other words, do it because I told you to, and there will be consequences if you don't. If your values are centered on compliance and obedience, then accountability is perfect for you. If you prefer the carrot over the stick, maybe ownership is an alternative way to look at getting the work done and sustaining professional practice with pride and even joy.
Joe Tye and Bob Dent, contributing authors to Nursing Management, wrote about this in their book, Building a Culture of Ownership in Healthcare, and Joe expands on the concept in his book, The Florence Prescription. Using Florence's legacy as a self-empowered pioneer, the case for ownership is built based on commitment, engagement, stewardship, and other values. Isn't performance that's based on engagement and ownership preferred over being “held accountable”?
When you're “held accountable,” it feels like a reprimand in a rules-based world. When you're valued for your engagement in purposeful work, it feels empowering, and you own your practice. No one has to hold you accountable; you hold yourself accountable. That's the sweet spot.
So how do we facilitate ownership of practice? This would be a culture where you flourish as well; where purpose, meaning, and everyone's voice and engagement are paramount. It's transformational, not transactional. Leadership, peer modeling, professional governance structures, recognition, understanding the “why,” and even basic change management are all part of it.
As we rebuild our teams after more than two traumatic pandemic years and strive for new goals, this is the work culture we long to create. We can do it! The last type of leader I want to be right now is a transactional one, and I suspect you feel the same. When we rekindle engagement, we'll create ownership of practice.
Imagine coming to work, or leaving, and being confident, whether you're there or not, that everyone on your team not only feels responsible for their own practice but is so engaged that they're looking for better ways and improved processes and have the psychological safety to voice their ideas. They're intolerant of one another's behavior if it's not aligned with their expectations of each other. You're proud, and leading the way without blame, punishment, or any negative transactional approaches.
In that world, simply checking boxes for accomplished tasks isn't enough. It's with positive spirit and ownership that we soar, and patients benefit. Hire staff members, whether permanent or temporary, who share these values. Creating this type of culture leads to retention too.
In our brave new world of rebuilding trust, teams, partnerships, and patient care, let ownership prevail over accountability. It will bring us closer to joy in practice again.
To hear more about ownership versus accountability, check out Nursing Management's podcast episode, “Embracing Leadership Opportunities During Challenging Times,” in the multimedia section of our website at www.nursingmanagment.com. The Nursing Management podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.