This year’s Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey presented unusual dynamics for me. Though my team’s scores indicated a high level of engagement—largely consistent with those of the past—and my direct reports had high scores in all 12 questions, there was one area in which we as a department were not as high as I would like us to be: I know what is expected of me at work. This bothered me and opened my eyes to the need to address this seriously.

Our mean scores over the last several years were higher than those of the overall institution for all the of 12 Gallup questions except this one. Our score was 4.25 out of 5, and the health system’s was 4.47.

Why is this? Is it something about our discipline? Our department? The growth of our institution?

I reflected on the fact that our staff members face complex issues and requests in a complicated and relatively decentralized organization. They work to foster alignment around how to create the greatest benefit for the overall institution—and most of all our patients. They are self-driven and eager to please, and they try to accommodate many demands in addition to the strategic ones.

I realize how important it is for us to provide clarity in an ambiguous environment where leaders succeed with extreme collaboration—sometimes at the cost of healthy alignment. Each of us looks for clear and factual information from our managers and directors and can get lost in a culture that values historical processes that may need to be reconsidered in our age of constant connectivity and rapid feedback. For now, we need to encourage people to ask for direction when they’re confused about expectations, especially when they’re new to our system.

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