Management + Leadership

Hold team members accountable by starting with why

team huddle

Every morning, I lead a “team huddle” in my clinic. The basic goal of the huddle is simple: to ensure that team members are prepared for the day’s scheduled appointments and procedures. However, the greater value of this huddle is that it sets the accountability framework for the day.  Clear, measurable expectations are stated to our competent, diverse team of surgical technicians, nurses, dental assistants, receptionists and fellow surgeons.  The team is encouraged to ask questions during the huddle to further clarify the plan for the day.   All team members leave the huddle understanding what each of them must do to have a successful day.
Without fail, by mid-morning, a team member informs me of an unmet expectation leading to confusion among the team members. I am usually seeing multiple patients at this time and already have an increased stress level before learning of avoidable setbacks.  As a stress reflex, my instinct is to hold the team member accountable and reinforce what I need them to do as soon as possible. This usually results in some type of roundabout conversation that leaves both the team member and myself not content with the outcome, but we agree to move on and try to not have the situation happen again.

But what if I would have addressed this staff error with why rather than what? Could I have inspired the team members to change their action rather than simply holding them accountable, which many team members see as punitive?  This is a question I have started asking myself recently after watching Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk entitled, “How great leaders inspire action.”

By starting with why your team exists and how the missed expectation does not reflect your team’s shared vision and values, you hold the team member accountable without focusing on what the task at hand accomplishes.  Don’t get me wrong; this does not mean that clear expectations of what team members need to do should not be used to hold a team accountable. All I suggest, is the next time you have to hold a team member accountable, start with why, followed by what and see what happens.

~Dr. Daniel Hammer, Pacific ’11, chief resident of oral and maxillofacial surgery, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center



Dr. Daniel Hammer

Dr. Daniel Hammer is the Chief Resident of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. He is a 2011 graduate of the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry with high honors and was the 2010-2011 ASDA District 11 Trustee. He is currently the Immediate Past President of the Resident Organization of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

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