1. Cox, Sharon A. RN, CNAA, MSN

Article Content

"There's something about Mike that makes him really stand out," one of my colleagues said, as we finished a session with assistant nurse managers seeking to develop their peer group meetings. He seemed mature for his age and was eager to learn about his new role, but beyond that, he appeared to have a talent for leadership. Taking ownership was the characteristic that set Mike apart from his peer group.


Earlier, the group members admitted that their staff meetings felt tense and their energy level for addressing management issues deteriorated as the meeting progressed. While some discussed how difficult it was to attend meetings because of their workload (victim thinking), others decried the lack of support from their managers (blaming). The energy in the room shifted when Mike commented, "I think part of this is mine to own because I know I haven't been very invested in the meetings. In my opinion, we've been expending energy on minor things and not focusing on more substantive issues. I know I need to speak up more and address my concerns during meetings rather than in the parking lot afterward."


Mike's ability to take ownership helped the group reflect on steps it could take to increase meeting effectiveness, motivating members to take action rather than overly processing the problem. Asking, "How are we helping this happen?" generates a wide array of responses and options that can change our behaviors, allowing us to move away from the "blame game" and toward optimistic and positive ways of dealing with a problem. One group, frustrated by slow turnaround time for stat lab orders, increased its focus by acknowledging that nurses needed to stop marking all of the labs "stat"-a major cause for the problem. Another group that complained about issues with the admissions department realized it needed to own part of the problem. Some of the nurses failed to electronically document bed readiness because they didn't want another patient to fill the bed yet. The result of their taking ownership was a more positive atmosphere for creative problem-solving.


John Miller writes about the power of demonstrating accountability in his best-selling book, QBQ!! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Business and in Life. He reminds us that we make better choices in dealing with situations if we ask better questions. Rather than choosing the easy option of "fixing the blame," we need to ask the deeper questions of ownership, which moves us toward addressing real issues and being proactive. Miller offers a guideline for teamwork in which all questions begin with what or how, rather than why, when, or who. These questions can lead us to action, taking us out of the victim mindset and into a more energizing mode of acting on options. When we ask the real questions, we can positively impact a situation and demonstrate accountability-one of the hallmarks of effective leadership. How might the energy in your workplace shift if, instead of pointing fingers, group members took ownership for elements they could influence or impact by their own behavioral change? John Miller offers a twist on the popular serenity prayer that might be of some use in your next staff meeting: "God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it is me!!" 1




1. Miller, J.:QBQ!! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Business and in Life. Denver, Colo.: Denver Press, 2001. [Context Link]