Strategy and Execution- Be Like the Buckeyes!

Yes, I am still basking in the afterglow of a College Football National Championship for my team, THE Ohio State University Buckeyes.  As I have contemplated their remarkable success this season, there are many things one could point to as keys to their success. Many of them apply to successful leadership in any setting:

Assemble the Best Team:  They won the last three games with a third string quarterback!  How deep is your bench?

Hire the Best Coach/Leader:  Gotta Love Urban Meyer!  His team would do anything for him.  Would your team do anything for you?

Strategic Plan: Their playbook was designed to beat the best teams in the country.  Is your plan up to your challenges?

Business Plan- Game Planning was impeccable.  Opponents were studied, their weaknesses identified, and their strengths too.  Plans to neutralize and dismantle opponents were made, communicate and practiced.  When it was game time, the team was prepared. How well have you prepared your team for this year’s challenges?

Project Plan- Each game comes down to the outcomes of 100 or so plays.  Each play is like an individual project plan.  Each is an opportunity to go through the “PDCA” cycle.

  • Plan:  Every play starts with coaches on both sides, as well as a quarterback on offense and someone who captains the defense making a “read.”  They take into account what the situation is.  Down and distance, what point they are in the game, what point they are on the field, and the scoreboard.  They look at the competitor’s formation, remember the things they saw on film, and determine what they think will work best.

The Play Call-

  • Do: Each side calls their play based on what they think the other is going to do given the circumstances at that very moment and for that situation.  They break their huddles and approach the line of scrimmage.

The Audible-

  • Check: Just before they engage, both sides get one last chance to assess the situation.  Is the opponent in the formation they expected, do they have the match-up for which they are hoping?  If not, they can make a change by calling an audible, a change in the plan based on something unexpected, or even an audible by design, because the initial formation was to mislead and the audible play was really the plan all along.

The Execution-

  • Act: When all is said and done, they still have to run the play and every team member has to perform his task as designed and practiced.  Strength, speed, and intelligence still come into play, and that is why assembling the best team and having the best leader to prepare the team mentally and physically cannot be downplayed.  Blocks, tackles, ball exchanges, and proper technique must all be employed each and every play to achieve success on that play, in that game, and in the season to take home the ring.

The Outcome-

  • Results: Every play has a result.  Some will be good for your team, some will be bad.  Those results are analyzed every play, in real-time by the coaching staff.  They are looking for the things that went right in hopes of duplicating them later.  They are looking for things that went wrong and sending pictures to players on the field of what to do differently the next time.  They are looking for mismatches to exploit, or mismatches to avoid.  Every play’s good or bad result is another opportunity to learn, make adjustments and improve.  The best teams are usually the ones who make the best mid-game and mid-season adjustments and, thereby, improve execution as the game, and the season goes on

The Next Play-

  • PDCA: The Cycle starts again, Plan, Do, Check, Act!  

I know there are a lot of other, more sophisticated tools out there for Process Improvement, especially in a Lean Six Sigma “Black” tool “Belt.”  There are certainly some projects that go beyond the scope for PDCA, but I have found that PDCA can work in about 80% of the projects I have led.  What PI process one chooses is not nearly as important as committing to Process Improvement.  Strategic plans, business plans and project plans will not fly on auto pilot.  The terrain is unknown and unpredictable.  vigilance and constant course correction is required to soar to new heights.

It’s Time for Me to Fly!  How about you?

Relationships on the Run lead to Ruin!

I heard the statement above on a podcast recently and, being the 3R’s of Success guy, it really resonated with me.  After all, look at the three R’s… I love it!  Beyond that alliteration, however, it highlighted some issues we all battle in our family life, career life, church life, any aspect of life, really.  It highlights two truths central to whether or not we will enjoy Success:

Truth #1 - Relationships Take Quality Time!

This is a tough pill to swallow in our microwave culture, but the reality is that without investing quality time in your relationships, they will be weak.  Relationships are fragile. When they are new, they must be tenderly nurtured, like an infant. When they are in their prime they must be fought for and courted like a lover.  When they are mature they must be savored for the true gift they are, because we never know how much longer we will have them.

This is true for our relationships with our spouses, or kids, our co-workers, God and those we seek to serve.  Relationships have a life of their own.  When two people have a relationship it is almost as though they have created a unique third entity that only they have the power to make strong, or to kill.  Their choices to pour into it, starve it, kill or maim it have consequences for the relationship, and the loss of these entities can cause grief and sorrow as much as the death of family member.

Truth #2 – Relationships are the MOST Important Things in Life!

If you believe Truth #1 and you want to have joy, peace, success and happiness in life, you have to put time and effort into the relationships that are the most important to you.  Zig Ziglar often said: “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

What is it you want?

Fame?  You cannot be admired without relationships.

Fortune? Without relationships what is fortune?  If you have no one to share the things you have and the amazing experiences wealth can afford, would it bring you joy?  To answer that question, picture a man who has every material luxury money could buy or that one could imagine, but they were all on a deserted continent without another living being…  Would the wealth still have meaning?

Purpose?  We already have our answer to this in the book of Genesis.  Adam had been created by God with a purpose, and he was fulfilling that purpose, tending to the Garden of Eden, and he had fellowship with God, but yet God concluded, “It is not good for man to be alone.” and He created Eve.  Clearly we are designed to have relationships with other humans.

Whatever it is that you define as success will only happen if you invest time and energy into the relationships that matter most to that success.  If you want to succeed in you career, pour into your team, and support the mission of your employer for the good of your customers.  If family is important to you, spend quality time with them, love them well, put their needs above your wants.  If serving your community is important, know that you cannot just go through the motions.  Life is messy, and you will have to get dirty to help others dig out of their problems.

Lastly, know that you cannot do everything.  You are not God!  You are finite and your time is finite, so you will have to prioritize what it is you are meant to do, and put it first on the list.  How do you know what your priorities should be?  My advice would be found in Matthew 6:33.  If that does not ring true for you, I probably am the wrong person for you to ask…

Leadership that NEVER Fails

Here is a description of a Leader that I think we would all choose to follow.  One that:

  • Never gives up
  • Cares more for others than self
  • Is not envious of others’ success
  • Is not prideful
  • Does not let success go to his or her head
  • Does not force his or her will on others
  • Is not always about “me first”
  • Never flies off the handle
  • Does not keep track of others failures
  • Does not revel when others have to grovel
  • Is most satisfied when the truth unfolds
  • Puts up with almost anything
  • Trusts that he is not God and therefore does not have to try to control everything
  • Always looks for the best in everything for every one
  • Never looks back longingly to the past
  • Always presses forward to the goal, regardless of the obstacles
  • Will NEVER FAIL

Who would not follow this leader?  What leader could ever measure up to this list?

The list may sound familiar to some of you.  It is a loose adaptation from “The Message” version of the Bible, the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, verses 4 through 7.  It is often called “the love chapter” and these verses are the core versus that define what “Love Is.”  I was listening to a podcast recently where these were being read for a completely unrelated topic and it occurred to me how well they described the Leader I aspire to become.

So my brief message of the day, from the message version of the bible, is that if you want to be a great leader you do not have to read a library of leadership books, attend exhaustive leadership training, read leadership blogs (except mine, of course!), or conduct exhaustive employee surveys.  All of these things are good, but to be a great leader the secret is to walk in love.  Not wimpy, spineless, ooey gooey feeling kind of love, but strong, courageous, powerful, sacrificial love as described above.

A wise man once said, “you cannot give what you do not have,” so if you find yourself struggling to lead as described above you might need to ask yourself, “Have I ever received that kind of love.”  It is a rare thing to find, yet it has been offered to everyone.

If you have received this kind of love but are struggling to lead in this manner it may be that the cultural messages of leadership by control, greed being good, looking out for number one, and the view that people are just interchangeable cogs in a wheel, merely means to your ends, are superseding the TRUTH.

What is the TRUTH?  Our lives are just a “vapor waiting to pass” and the only thing that matters is how well we loved and served others in our brief slice of eternity in which we drift in before we fade away.  It is the lives we touch that will determine our legacy.  Nothing we build will last forever.  No companies, no buildings, no nations or confederation have eternal lives.  Only people do.  You might fail to execute on a business plan or strategy.  You may not get that promotion, or your dream job.  Does that mean you failed?  NO!  People are the only things that are eternal.  Even “heaven and earth will pass away.” All that really matters is the impact we have on people, who impact other people, and so on, and so on…

So you want to be a leader who never fails?  Learn to love.

Time is Ticking Away! Leaders: Leave a Legacy!

Psalms 90:12 “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Moses

Sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, How many years in your life?  God only knows…

I am at that stage in life where it is most likely that the number of days I have left is less than the days I have spent thus far.  People who live to be 104 are very rare!  The truth is none of us know for sure when we have turned that corner.  I have lost friends and family that were much younger than I am today.  Today could well be my last on earth, as it could be yours…

As the New Year approaches it is a great time for all of us to look back at the last year and evaluate our impact on the world around us, determine what has brought value to us, our family, our co-workers, and our community, and think about how we can leverage that for the future.  Further, we can reflect on those things that sucked away our time, energy and joy, and try not to duplicate these in the New Year.

Life is a gift from God and it has been given to us to spend wisely on the things that have eternal value.  What can we all do this next year to leave a legacy?  The reality of our lives is that they are vapors, waiting to pass.  One hundred years from now, very few of us will have our names remembered by anyone!  Fame is fleeting and wealth fades.  Real success cannot be defined by these temporal things.

I am asking for your wisdom to help me in this New Year ahead:

  • What accomplishment of yours in 2014 had the most impact on a Legacy that might outlive you?
  • What advice can you share with others here that might help us all spend our lives more wisely?
  • How do you stay motivated to remember the eternal when the pressures of life close in on you?
  • What is it that you will do this next year that will have an impact that outlives you?

I truly appreciate all of you who have read my blogs, commented and shared with others this year.  Your feedback has enriched my life.  I know I get more out of this interaction than my readers!

Stay in touch, and I wish you TRUE SUCCESS this New Year!

Rip Van Winkle- 2015

Imagine the well-known tale of Rip Van Winkle revisited this New Year.  The protagonist of our story, Rip, having gone on a weekend excursion into the Catskills as part of a team building exercise for the hospital leadership team he had just been promoted into six months earlier from his Radiology Technologist position, decides to take a nap after the team finishes 4 hours on the ropes course.  It is Spring, 1995.

WAKE-UP CALL

He awakens in his well-appointed cabin to find it covered in dust and cobwebs.  He stumbles out of bed and out of the cabin to find the entire property abandoned and in disrepair.  Confused he eventually hikes out to the main road and eventually flags down a car with a very nice young couple and asks for a ride back to the city.

During the course of the ride, Rip cannot help but notice the technology in this car is simply remarkable!  There is a car phone that plays through the radio, and the dashboard looks like something out of a Star Trek, Next Generation episode.  There is a computerized Navigation system displayed on the dashboard that the couple accessed and manipulated by voice commands to input Rips home address.  He expressed his awe at these devices and the couple laughed at him as if he was joking.

As they travelled the wife pulled out an 8 x 11 device that looked like a laptop, but had no keyboard and started watching a TV news program on FOX news.  Rip saw no cords, no antennas, and was so intrigued that he leaned forward from the backseat and started watching and was completely confused as the broadcasters were discussing next steps that President Obama would be pushing for to assure that “Obamacare” would not be undone by the new Republican controlled Congress and Senate!  President who?  Obama what?

Over the course of the next two hours he sat silent and mystified as he continued to watch news story after news story that made sense only by matching it with the date at the bottom of the TV screen.  April 1, 2015.  He did not know how it was possible, but either he was going mad, was currently dreaming and unable to wake himself, or he had slept away 20 years of his life?  He thought about opening discussion with the couple, but thought better of it realizing that people do not react well to having mad men in the backseat of their cars.

You can imagine the rest of the story.  The couple dropped Rip off outside his home in the suburbs of the city, and he found the house and surrounding neighborhood to be 20 years older.  Not surprisingly, his family no longer resided at the location.  He walked a couple of miles to the local library, which was still there.  After an hour or so of coaching from a young, pleasant librarian on how to research using Google, Rip sat mesmerized as he, in 3 short hours, was able to find out almost everything that had happened to his wife, son and daughter over the last 20 years.  He wept as he read of his wife’s fatal car crash 8 years earlier, then again when he found his now 32-year-old daughter’s wedding notice two years later, and his son’s, now 30, licensure as a Medical Doctor in Radiology.

15 MINUTES OF FAME

The next few months were nothing short of fantastic.  Reuniting with his son and daughter, DNA testing, and cellular analysis confirming that Rip was who he said he was, and that his body had somehow escaped aging over the last twenty years.  Speculations ranging from alien abductions, to stasis, to wormhole time travel, to cloning all were debated on CNN and Fox News!  Rip declined the Reality series, Biography and Lifetime movie offers that would have made him a very rich man.

Within a couple of years, Rip’s life settled into a new normal, working again as a Radiology tech.  Digital X-ray was not that difficult to learn, and he really had no interest in 360 slice CT’s, 3T MRI’s, 3D Hybrid OR Angiography Suites that had become the rage in his chosen career field.  People still broke wrists and needed x-rays.  He still had meaningful work.

Over time he was able to establish a relationship with his children, and later grandchildren and that brought him joy to offset the sorrow of the loss of his beloved wife and his former life.  All in all, he considered himself blessed for the strange life he had been appointed to live.

MORAL OF THE STORY

The thought occurred to Rip one day, that many of his peers went through their lives as asleep as he was.  Missing the important time with family as their kids grew up, some losing spouses as well from death or divorce.  At least he had a wake-up call that allowed him to change the rest of his life around what was truly important.

 

THE KEY to Success in Healthcare Leadership

2015 will mark my 30th year in Healthcare Leadership.  I have been fortunate to work for great organizations in growing areas and have been a part of building and growing some great clinical programs.  In the process I have provided well for my family and am positioned to leave a personal and professional legacy for the next generation.  Along the way I have determined that there truly is ONE KEY to my success as a healthcare leader and that is creating and maintaining GREAT Physician Relationships.

I will share some guiding principles for great physician relationships shortly, but first we need to understand what I call:

The 1st Law of Healthcare Administration:  Only Physicians write orders. 

An important corollary to this law is Physician Orders must be carried out.  

The impact of these two principles as a healthcare administrator is this:

Whether one is working on a growth strategy or an efficiency strategy, she will not succeed unless physicians are aligned with the initiative.

Follow these guiding principles and you will succeed with physicians and thereby succeed in healthcare leadership:

First Things First:  It is all about the patient!

If you want to align with physicians this principle will get you there 80% of the time.  Most physicians have this at the core of their being.  If you want alignment, it needs to be at the core of yours.  If it is not, you really should find another line of work.  No one will follow or respect a healthcare leader who is all about the business mission or the academic mission except to the degree it aligns with what is right for the patient.  That is the sweet spot of success in healthcare.  Keep swinging there and you will knock it out of the park!

Find, Fix and Follow-up

This principle was taught to me by some consultants along the way, probably the Studer Group.  If you want to improve your healthcare operations, listen to the physicians.  They are in the middle of the fray.  They know what is broken.  Find the root cause of the problems and Fix them!  Do not let them linger forever.  Remove the barriers to great patient care and let the care givers function at the “top of their licenses.”  By the way, when you do that, Follow-up and let them know you have fixed it.  This is VERY important for your credibility.  I have had the experience of fixing something and 2 years later something similar occurred causing a physician leader to determine it had been broken for two years!  Get credit for the work you and your team do to fix things by circling back and communicating the actions you have taken and confirm the results with the physicians.

Create Win, Win, Wins!

Everyone knows that there is an engrained distrust between physicians and “Administration” in healthcare that has to be overcome.  Too often, I have seen Healthcare Administrators try to succeed by looking at the factions within Medical Staffs and trying to pit one faction versus another and thereby maintain enough of a power edge to stay “in control.”  This strategy can win in the short-term, and is exactly why we have what I call the “3 and out cycle” in healthcare leadership…  A new healthcare CEO comes in and surveys the landscape, determines a strategy, aligns with one side or another of the medical staff to execute on the strategy, succeeds and moves on before the backlash can catch up with her.  In the wake is a disgruntled, untrusting medical staff that is waiting on the next CEO to come in and see what they can do to get their agenda heard this time around.

This win/win leadership is not enough to sustain long-term success in healthcare.  Instead we need to create a win/win/win strategy, embracing all factions by engaging medical staff leadership around “first things first,” the patient.  Work with them to define sustainable strategic initiatives that deliver the best care to patients and support the mission and vision of the healthcare system.  This is not a quick hit strategy.  It takes time because it relies upon creating relationships and trust.  Will everyone embrace the vision?  Probably not, but the few who are not aligned when this is the approach usually marginalize themselves. All the other stakeholders will see them as outliers whose selfish interests outweighed the interests of patients, and their complaints will fall on deaf ears.

Finally, remember Physicians are People Too!  Get to know them.  Care about them as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives and husbands.  They have lives outside of their roles in our healthcare institutions.  Help them have balance in their lives.

 

 

Four Resolutions for Impactful Leaders

I am guilty.  Guilty of showing favoritism.  In my conscious mind I know that every person has worth and value.  I even work for an organization that serves the disenfranchised, yet I was confronted by the fact that in my subconscious I have been guilty of  not serving well.  I am like those that James confronts in his letter found in the New Testament.  I have shown VIP treatment to some who have more everything; status, influence, power, yet have treated those with less like they ARE less, which they ARE NOT. I have worked hard to build relationships and influence with the haves, and have not taken the time to get to know the have-nots.  I have failed to fully recognize that wisdom does not know socioeconomic boundaries and the riches of life are often available in getting to know those who have persevered, though buffeted mercilessly by life’s blows.

I am determined to heed the words of wisdom learned today and take the following actions so that I “Live to Impact,” not “Live to Impress.”  I will slow down from my doing good long enough to serve better by resolving to heed these simple lessons for impacting the world around us:

Learn Names:

Dale Carnegie rightly stated that nothing sounds so sweet to a man than the sound of his own name.  I resolve to learn one person’s name per day that I previously would have passed by without giving them any thought.

Listen to Stories:  

Everybody has one.  They are what life is all about, and the only things that have impact from one generation to the next.  Our stories are our legacy, and if we are so busy trying to write our own story, without taking the time to intersect with the stories of others, our life will be pale, lifeless, and void of any lasting impact.  Think of the funerals you have attended.  Which ones do you leave feeling inspired and hopeful?  Those where the deceased has had an impact on the lives around him or her!  Those who left behind stories of love, compassion and serving others.  They are the lives that had an impact.  They are the kind of live we all should want to emulate.  I resolve to listen to at least one person’s story each day that I otherwise would have passed without hearing.

Share possessions:

The lesson of Christmas joy needs to remembered 24 x 7, 365 days per year.  The lesson is this.  ”It is better to give than to receive.”  ”Better for whom?” one might ask.  Better for the receiver and the giver.  Nothing brings as much joy than giving a gift to someone who appreciates it. Nothing we possess in this life is worth anything past the day we die unless it can affect the life of another.  One has two choices.  Let it impact others now so one can share in the joy of the effect it has on someone, or die and then let your assets be passed to your heirs and/or the government and hope it has some positive effect on the world.  Those are your only two choices at the end of the day!  I resolve to share something I possess each day with someone I otherwise would never have impacted.

Provide Opportunities:

The other resolutions are fairly simple commitments that can be accomplished daily and with relatively easy effort.  Not so with the last one.  This one requires commitment to know those you want to impact beyond a surface level.  One has to understand the other person’s skills, abilities, vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  It is risky.  You will likely leverage your relationships and resources to have some people deeply disappoint you.  It will likely get messy at times.  That being said, having a lasting impact from one person who responds positively is worth the pain caused by many who may not respond or who may let you down.  To live life this way is a reflection of the same effort one man-made for all of us 2000 years ago in Galilee.  I resolve to provide opportunities for at least 5 people in the next year who I would never have lifted a finger to help in the past.

The truth of the matter is life is short and the need around us is great.  If we want to have an impact, we need to open our eyes and ears to the people around us, hear their stories and be there to help them write happy endings to their tales.  In doing so our own stories will be enriched and inspire others for generations to come.  What Resolutions would you add?

Special thanks to my pastor, Kevin Queen, for his challenging and inspiring words of wisdom.

 

 

 

Stop Helping: It Hurts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a missionary at heart and have been on several short-term international mission trips and also have been a part of community outreach efforts locally through community and church groups.  Therefore, the new body of writing that has come out challenging whether the majority of that type of work is having a positive impact has made me really take notice.  The two books above make the argument that there are often unintended consequences of such efforts that wreak havoc on the economies and even the psyche of the people who well-meaning individuals like me think they are helping!

This premise reminded me of a lesson I learned recently on Dan Miller’s, “48 Days to the Work You Love,” Leadership Podcast and how we often do too much for those we lead.  The lesson was this:

The first time you do something asked of you creates Appreciation.

The second time you do something asked of you creates Anticipation.

The third time you do something asked of you creates Expectation.

The fourth time you do something asked of you creates Entitlement.

The fifth time you do something asked of you creates Dependency.

As leaders, the last thing we want to do is leave in our wake a group of entitled, dependent people to pick up the mantle when we move on!  Instead we want to raise up a confident, capable workforce led by new leaders who were once followers that learned to stand on their own two feet and think for themselves.  So how do we do that?

Here are 5 steps to create self-sufficient leaders:

Present the opportunity:  Code for bring them the problem!  Trust the people you lead enough to be transparent about the things that are scary out there!

Put Them in your Shoes:  Whether this is limited to a brainstorming exercise, or an actual delegation of authority, let them feel the weight of leadership decision-making.

Positively Reinforce Critical Thinking:  Whether their ideas are brilliant or off the mark, positively reinforce them for engaging in the process and, if necessary, coach them to see a better path without wounding their spirit.

Partner Them with Teammates:  If they are a superstar, partner them with people they can pull up.  If they have potential, partner them with people who can pull them up.

Pass on the Accolades:  When you have involved the team and the efforts are successful, make sure that the team gets the accolades.  Do not let them think you are taking credit for their work and accomplishments.

Zig Ziglar often said, “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people have everything they want!”  The corollary I would add after reading the wisdom gleaned from people on the mission field is, “Help others get everything they want in life by showing them how to earn it for themselves!”

Four Keys to Managing Setbacks

It is a beautiful fall day. The air has that unmistakably crisp, clean quality  that remembers summer but anticipates fall.  The stadium is rocking with 100,000 plus, all dressed in the home team’s colors as they are set to receive the kick-off.  The drum roll and war cry reaches a crescendo as the kicker kicks-off to the home team’s receiver who takes possession of the ball one yard deep in his own end zone.  The receiver rockets to his right and a wall of blockers start taking on the opposition, but it appears the return will be routine and stopped at the 20-yard line when suddenly the receiver pitches the ball to a teammate headed left on a designed reverse that catches the defenders completely off-guard. Eight seconds later the ball carrier crosses into the end-zone, untouched, and the stadium starts to go crazy.

Then, the Jumbo-Tron screen switches camera views to focus on a 1 foot square of yellow fabric laying on the home team’s 15 yard-line and wails and groans echo throughout the hallowed bleachers.  Penalty, block in the back, no touchdown, no return.  First and 10 at the 10 yard line.  NInety yards to go until pay dirt…

As much as I hate that experience in a football game, and I have lived through many similar ones as a Redskins fan, when that experience occurs in the workplace it is much more gut wrenching and personally challenging.  I had one of those experiences this week.

I was brought into my current position, with my current employer mainly to launch one new service.  I have been working with an enormously dedicated and talented group of individuals for almost a full year to bring the program on-line.  This week we had our dedication ceremony, and our launch, and then the next day we made the strategic decision to “scrub the launch,”  The decision was the right one, and when we re-launch we will be even better, but it does feel as though we scored and now have been SETBACK.

As a leader I believe there are Four Keys to Managing Setbacks:

Stay Positive:  Imagine you are the quarterback who leads the team out to the 10 yard line after the kick-off return is called back.  What would you say and do?  Wouldn’t you look every one of your team members in the eye and remind them that you have a game plan to execute that did not include a kick-off return for a touchdown, then challenge them to execute on their part of every play this drive and every drive until the fourth quarter is over and your team is victorious?  Or would you go into the huddle and lament the call on the previous play?  The answer is pretty obvious, right?

Keep Perspective:  The service that I was hired to help lead into fruition is one that a key team member told me on the original launch day had been talked about for twenty years!  Our expected delay until full launch is expected to be 45 days.  Twenty Years, 45 days…  Really, WHO CARES!  I need to lay aside my wounded pride and realize how far we have come and get ready to celebrate even harder in 6 weeks!

Put It In The Past:  Let’s look at the teammate who was charged for the penalty on the kick-off.  The replay showed the block was thrown well away from the action.  It was an unnecessary penalty, leading to an unnecessary setback.  As a leader, what are you going to do and say to this teammate?  Are you going to give him the cold shoulder, or worse yet, rip into him for his stupid, unecessary act? That would be pretty foolish as he is a starting outside linebacker who is on the field half of the game and integral on every defensive snap to keep the opposing team from scoring.  Instead, you need to help him forget about that one mistake and focus on the task at hand.

Push Toward the Prize: In any setback situation the key is to focus everyone back on the goal.  One called back touchdown does not lose the game.  One lost game does not ruin a season.  One bad season does not ruin a career.  A career failure does not have to ruin a life.  Wherever you find yourself, there is a purpose from this point forward.  Find that purpose, focus on it and move on.

For my current teammates, thanks for all your hard work and dedication.  I am looking forward to the locker celebration in our not so distant future!

“It’s Best Practice!” the new “Cause I said so!”

Remember the good ol days?!

Do you remember as a kid when your Mom or Dad told you to do something that you did not want to do, or at least not right then.  The “discussion” went back and forth. You came up with every reason that you should not have to do it.  When that failed you gave all the reasons it could wait until later.  Finally you would make the costly fatal mistake.  You would ask something in exasperation like, “Why do I have to do it right this minute?!” to which the “discussion” ending answer would be stated authoritatively:  ”Cause I said so!”

I  have two sons, 20 and 17 years old.  Long gone are the days when that phrase works for me at home!  Furthermore, as an emotionally intelligent leader, I have avoided using such language in the work place unless it is completely unavoidable.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have used it in 28 years as a leader, and count on one finger the times I have felt good about it afterwards!

Thankfully, a couple of weeks ago, some colleagues educated me on another phrase that can be used in the workplace as effectively as my parents’ infamous “Cause I said so!”

We are implementing an expedited service, spanning a large part of the organization.  What normally takes hours we are going to do in minutes.  In order to achieve this,  I needed something from a support department that would allow us to perform mock run tests of the system under the new time constraints to identify potential failure points and make necessary adjustments.

Without getting into details let’s just say that what I thought was a simple request was not seen that way by my colleagues in this support area.  In fact, they thought that I should have come to them a lot sooner in the process and do it in a particular manner they preferred.  I thought my way was a lot easier, offered little risk, and asked them if they would make an exception to their normal process.

I don’t know if you have ever asked for an exception from a support service, but it can be a little like a kid trying to win an argument with his/her parents.  It’s an uphill battle at best, and useless at worst.  This time, however, I knew I had the high ground.  There were no new processes to speak of, and I just needed one little thing to be able to do our testing.  I am a persuasive guy, I knew I would convince them of my logical reasoning.

So… the discussion began.  I employed my best emotionally intelligent communication techniques.  I kept emotion out of it, listened more than talked and explained the logic behind my reasoning.  In the end, I failed!  They maintained it had to be done their way.  No exceptions could be made.  Then I did the unthinkable!  I asked that one question that brought about the end of all reasoning…  I asked, “Why not?”

Childhood memories and frustrations flooded back in when the Support Services representative gave me that look like I should know better and spoke these devastating words…”Because it’s best practice.”

Now, I know that there are evidenced based best practices in any industry, but I am in healthcare.  To acknowledge that you might do anything that goes against best practice is like saying you want to kill people!  That was it!  I was finished!

Since then, I have done an exhaustive literary search to find the study that supports the assertion that the way that they mandated was indeed best practice for my specific situation.  I have not found it yet.  We have burned through 120 man hours to create the test environment needed to follow their “best practice” and have at least 30 hours more to complete the task.  Conservatively, we are paying team members an average of $50 per hour for this project.  That’s $7,500.  Oh, and Mock Runs have been delayed for 3 weeks.

Don’t misunderstand, I am sure the end product will be great for the additional effort.  Not only that, I have a new tool in my belt to avoid the necessity to logically convince people about future initiatives I embark upon.  After all, I will only choose to pursue “Best Practice!”