Healthcare Perspectives


Creating High-Functioning Leadership Teams - Part Two

Feb 21, 2017
By: Tina Nazier

Leadership is a critical factor in securing success for today’s health care organizations. Now more than ever before, organizations depend greatly on high-functioning leadership teams. Creating and sustaining those teams demands considerable effort. It requires the implementation and cultivation of five key elements—trust, creative conflict, commitment, accountability, and finally, a focus on results.

In part one of this series, the elements of trust and creative conflict were explored and explained. Trust is the most vital of the five elements and the very foundation of strong teamwork and a healthy work environment. Without it, none of the other elements will take hold.

Creative conflict is also vital to team performance. Although conflict can be uncomfortable, team members must master the art of respectful debate and sharing their differing opinions. This necessary and healthy process leads to optimum decision-making abilities.

Only with trust and creative conflict is it possible to progress to the next step in the high-functioning pyramid. Only then can securing team members’ commitment be possible. It is the third essential element that, like the others, requires considerable effort to achieve.

Commitment: Element Three

How does a team leader truly know whether team members are committed to an initiative, a project, or a strategy? When the “big” meeting has adjourned, will members stick to the plan, deviate from it, or possibly disrupt it altogether?

Without buy-in from team members, it’s nearly impossible to succeed. Without clarity, that buy-in will be in jeopardy.

Ensuring clarity and alignment relies heavily on the team leader. Leaders are responsible for establishing a project’s objectives, outlining action items, assigning responsibilities, and reiterating the directives. With clearly defined goals, there must also be metrics and timelines. Developing a solid action plan is vital, and there should be no ambiguities about what comes next.

Equally important is the “need to needle.” Leaders must draw out any suppressed concerns before sending team members in pursuit of their tasks. Doing so can result in necessary changes to an action item. But be prepared; it might also present an opportunity for a non-committed team member to bow out. He or she may not be right for the team, or just not right for the project. Whatever the reason, there is no room for unengaged team members.

When team member commitment is reached, put it in writing. A written summary of the initiative in question followed by members’ signatures is a great way to visually reinforce those individual commitments.

Accountability: The Fourth Necessary Element

When it comes to accountability, every team member must hold every other team member accountable—and each person must remain accountable to him or herself. That’s often easier said than done.

Leaders should work to ensure that all members are accountable for their assigned responsibilities. Requesting status reports, using tracking tools, or designating a member to perform regular follow-ups can keep everyone on task and accountable. 

When accountability is lacking, whether at one time or another, or in one person or another, leaders will need to intervene quickly. Poor accountability affects team morale and diminishes productivity. Team members are typically reluctant to address accountability on their own, so it is important that they be given the proper training, coaching, and mentoring necessary to ensure they can hold others accountable in crucial moments.

Lack of accountability can occur for many reasons. Is it a lack of resources? Lack of motivation? An inability to perform the tasks in question? It is necessary for the leader to explore the reasons and address them openly with the team.

It’s common to think of accountability in somewhat negative terms (having to report, explain, or justify), but there are two sides to the accountability coin. Leaders must help team members view accountability as their ability to demonstrate the ownership needed to achieve results. And when the time arises, remember to ask, “Who is accountable for this success?”

A Focus on Results: Reaching the Top

The final element in the high-functioning team pyramid is a focus on results. Using clearly identified goals and well-articulated measures that are captured in easy-to-read scorecards is an effective way to ensure a focus on results.

There are a wide variety of scorecard tools available that make it possible to quickly recognize targets, assess success, and address shortcomings. Using color-coded and at-a-glance scorecards lets team members quickly view metrics and the status of those key expectations. The scorecards should be updated and communicated to the team regularly to keep them focused on the overall goal.

A team may want to reconvene quarterly to monitor the effectiveness of their initiative and determine whether objectives are continuing to be met. Doing so may identify issues that need to be revisited, tweaked, or amended.

And don’t forget the most important part of measurement and monitoring—rewarding the team for successes along the way. This is critical to the engagement of team members and to achieving success.

High-Functioning Teams = RESULTS!

The benefits to an organization of having a highly functional leadership team are numerous. Many organizations strive for successful teams that achieve results but fall short of this goal because of the absence of any one of the five factors outlined in this article series. 

Leaders play an important role in guiding their teams to success. But team members must also play an equally important role. The greatest reward of a high-functioning team is Results. Each team member should share in the responsibility for attaining results and reap the rewards of achieving their goals. This is the ultimate payback for their efforts and will keep them engaged for the long haul.


Tina Nazier, MBA, CPC
Director, Strategic Alignment
View Profile
Healthcare Perspectives blog
Subscribe to Healthcare Perspectives