Last Friday I had a coaching session with a national class surgeon. As part of the discussion, he mentioned that when he was section head of his department, turnover amongst the front-end staff was extremely low. I asked what led to that. This surgeon has a great, open and frank way of describing life. His comment was, “without them, our practice is hosed.” That might not sound like the most eloquent way to state the importance of those that occupy the less glamorous roles of your hospital or clinic so I asked him to elaborate further. In the long term recuperation that many of his patients require, he described how a closer relationship develops with the front office and mid-level staff than with the physician. It is the front line staff that talk to the family. It is the front line staff that answers many basic questions that don’t require physician input. It is the front line staff that sometimes, verbally or non-verbally, hold the hands of a frightened patient to help them adapt to a life they never dreamed they would have to confront. The more he talked, the clearer it became. Indeed, without them his “practice would be hosed”.
Why does this surgeon “get it” and so many still struggle with treating the front line staff as the valuable players that they are? Some questions to consider…
- Can you imagine turning rooms without housekeeping?
- Can you imagine grabbing your own instruments during surgery?
- Can you imagine running the OR without your circulator?
- Can you imagine having to do all the vitals on a patient if your MA did not show up?
- Can you imagine dealing with angry and frustrated patients who have an expectation of an instant appointment with no understanding of how difficult scheduling a multi-provider clinic can be?
- Can you imagine your life as a CMO without that amazing administrative assistant who anticipates your every move and buffers so much minutia without ever having to involve you?
As I continued my conversation with the surgeon, he told me about a woman with whom he works. Just earlier this month I had the opportunity to meet with her and discuss some important matters regarding personnel at the hospital. She came across as one of those individuals that completely knows her stuff. She is pleasant, forthcoming and completely professional. Only afterwards did I learn that this woman travels nationally and internationally for the hospital, is a recognized expert in lean and Kaizen principles, and is on the C-suite level. Her only concern during our interview was assisting me with my questions about one of her colleagues. What is impressive is that there was never so much as a hint of self importance or position.
The surgeon described how she cares for the hospital employees and sits down one-on-one with them. He articulated the depth that she seems to know them and their challenges. Is it any wonder why she is so respected?
Both this surgeon and senior executive “get it.” Many are the accounts of great leaders who don’t seem to be impressed by titles and positions…who instead seem to care about the individuals in their organizations. I recall a company that had a superb ad series years ago which stated, “without people, nothing happens.”
The surgeon said it well… “Without personal relationships with patients, there is an empty office”…and I would add, using the same line of thinking, “without strong relationships with staff, there is an empty office.” Consider:
1. As a leader, what is the status of your staff relationships?
2. Where are the gaps?
3. What has to happen to bring them to a level that will be best of class?
4. Are you leading with the steps of emotional intelligence in mind that can address some of these gaps?
Social Competence has two components with the noted subcategories:
- Understanding others
- Developing others
- Service orientation
- Leveraging diversión
- Political awareness
- Conflict management
- Change catalyst
- Building bonds
- Collaboration and cooperation
- Team capabilities
This is real-time application of what we have been talking about over the past few months in this blog: Awareness of the emotional aspect of leadership, and intentional implementation of elite performance to put that into practice during non-emergency times of the day.