9.6.13 Issue #600 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Accountability - What Are You Communicating?
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

"I don’t understand why I have to keep reminding my employees to do their job. They're not hearing what I'm telling them. All I get is finger pointing.” Unfortunately it’s a common phenomenon in many offices. Things don’t get done. Complacency and mediocrity are accepted. As a result, more and more of the responsibilities weigh on the shoulders of the dentist, who acts like a superhero carrying the burden and feeling overwhelmed…as well as frustrated and angry.

Of all the things we expect of leaders, the single-most shirked responsibility of “the boss” is holding people accountable. Accountability is essential to achieving results. If you find yourself addressing the same issues in the same manner time and time again, you have a lack of accountability in your team. And the root cause is a failure to communicate clear expectations.

It doesn’t matter where I go or what I do, whether coaching, consulting, or training, the topic of communication always plays a part. It makes sense - we are all trying to influence other people by what we say and how we say it. But the nuances of communication are complex, and most of us do not communicate as clearly as we think or intend. For example, have you said any of these phrases during a morning huddle or the monthly staff meeting?

  • It would be great if….
  • Someone should…
  • Do we all agree to…?
  • Can you try to…?

These are the typical ways to avoid making a clear request. In each of these, it’s uncertain who is being asked and what they are being asked to do. There’s no commitment from anyone. In many cases, the requestor walks away feeling good about bringing up an issue that’s been gnawing at him/her, but the communication has been too vague. The probability is nothing will happen.

The most successful requests follow a common pattern. Use first person language. Specify observable conditions of satisfaction, including deadlines. Explain your purpose for asking. If there is a designated person for the request, address her/him by name with direct language. Get agreement. Here’s a basic issue about office cleanliness and how it might sound:

  • I am concerned about the appearance of the waiting room.
  • I would like the magazines to be neatly stacked. The empty water bottles need to be recycled. I would like the carpet to be vacuumed.
  • When patients arrive at our office, the waiting room is the first impression they have of us and our services to them. We want them to feel confident and comfortable.
  • Keeping the waiting room in order is an immediate responsibility I am giving to the entire team. We are all accountable for the appearance of the office. It represents all of us. Can you commit to that? (pause and look each person in the eye until you get a “yes” or a head nod).
  • Susie, since you are the Front Desk Manager, I am going to ask you to develop a rotation schedule. Each of us will be assigned a day to oversee the waiting room for the entire day. Susie, can you get the schedule posted for us by the end of today? (pause and look at Susie for confirmation).

A clear request demands a clear response. There are only three possible answers:

  • Yes. When a person commits, they assume responsibility to honor their word. They take on an obligation to deliver on their promise, or if they cannot, they commit to doing their best to take care of your request.
  • No. Declining a request takes a person off the hook. They haven’t committed and therefore they cannot be held accountable. It’s much better to get a clear “no” than to get bogged down in wishy-washy “I'll do my best.”
  • I can’t yet due to a need for more information. This may be a clarification on the details. It may be an issue of inadequate resources, a lack of skills, or conflict with another commitment. It’s equally plausible that the other person just doesn’t want to do it.

If you hear anything else, beware. The other person is likely to ‘weasel’ out of any promise. Here are some examples:

  • Yes, I’ll try.
  • OK, let me see what I can do.
  • Seems doable.
  • Let me check into it.
  • Someone will take care of it.

Clear commitments don’t mean that everything will work out. Life is unpredictable, so even the most impeccable commitments can break down. As the dental leader you are accountable to model the way. That starts with your responsibility to keep promises. As Yoda said, “Do or do not…there is no try.”

Next Time: How to communicate when commitments aren’t kept.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here

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