As a Floridian, it’s not too often that I get to cheer for hockey. But recently while my family and I were watching the NHL playoffs, we went crazy after seeing one spectacular play. It was a perfect assist for a game-changing goal. My daughter saw the play and shouted, Dad! How did that guy know where to pass the puck? How did he know he’d be there??
Because he’s always there.

What he and his teammate executed wasn’t dumb luck. It was a well-practiced, well-rehearsed, well-perfected play in their playbook. The players didn’t need to yell to each other on the ice before making the play just to be sure everything was all set. They just did it. It was like second nature.

In my Disney days, I remember the cast members (Disney employees) at the Contemporary Resort practiced something we called “Lights-out consistency.” It was a way to establish consistency on all floors so that everyone knew where everything was just in case the lights went out. Do you know where the phone is? The reset button? The desk? The extra pillows, etc.? That level of consistency allowed cast members to lean on each other with the assurance that everyone knew how and where to find everything.

Are Your Employees Loyal (even when you’re not around?)

In healthcare, the “lights-out consistency” is the absent leader. Do your employees know what to do when you’re not around? Is your culture so explicit, so unmistakably clear, that employees hold themselves and each other accountable – even when you’re not there?

Too often in healthcare, we don’t have each other’s back; it’s survival of the fittest where we eat our young. This leads to burnout and compassion fatigue.

The antithesis to compassion fatigue is I’ve got your back. And the only way to create an environment – or a culture – where I’ve got your back is the norm, is to create an intentional culture that is explicit, where everyone knows this is how we do things around here.

How To Create a Culture of “I’ve Got Your Back”

So how do you create an explicit culture? Here’s the big secret: You involve everyone in the process of defining and building their new organizational culture. Participation creates authorship, which leads to ownership, which leads to mutual accountability. Mutual accountability means employees will police the culture … even when leaders are absent.
This is what we’re all after.
This is what makes some organizational cultures and environments better and stronger than others.
And this is why employees in an explicit culture, which they helped design, are loyal to the absent leader. Because they know that when the lights go out, their co-workers and leaders have their back.


So what’s it like at your hospital or organization? What happens when you’re not around? Do employees take care of each other or is it more of an everyone-for-themselves culture?