Magazine article People & Strategy

Holding Feet to the Fire or Walking across Coals

Magazine article People & Strategy

Holding Feet to the Fire or Walking across Coals

Article excerpt

Over the past five years, Midland Memorial Hospital has made substantial efforts to move from a culture of accountability to a culture of ownership. Think of the metaphors that we use for each. In a culture of accountability, you motivate people by holding their feet to the fire. In a culture of ownership, people are motivated to walk across hot coals on their own because of their inner commitment, pride, and loyalty.

There are three essential elements in a culture of ownership. The first is to be emotionally positive. We must be actively engaged in removing toxic behaviors from the organization. It is often recognized that toxic emotional behaviors, including bullying, disrespect, incivility, and harassment, lead to poor communication and teamwork thus driving poor outcomes. By creating a common language to end these behaviors, the ones generally acting out, about 20 percent of your workforce, will stand out like a sore thumb. As a leader, you will have to act on these relentlessly. What you tolerate is the culture you will allow.

The second essential element in a culture of ownership is to be self-empowered. Adopt a "proceed until apprehended" environment where your people can do the right things at the right time and that it is okay to fail from time to time, as long as it does not hurt anyone. Self-empowerment allows for more open and transparent communication between frontline employees and leadership. It allows for policies, procedures, and other strategies to be safely challenged regularly. …

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