Category: Insights

Are your team’s goals driving better results? Maybe we need a SMARTer approach.

If you’ve worked in any large organization during the past 30 years, there is a very high probability that someone recommended that you try setting SMART goals. This easy-to-remember acronym was originally introduced in a 1981 issue of Management Review by authors George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham. If one of their goals was to develop a memorable model that would stick in management practice, then they’ve been extremely successful. When I speak to large groups and ask, “Has anyone heard of “SMART” goals?”, almost every hand in the room goes up. Despite its memorability and simplicity, setting SMART goals has limitations. As suggested in the authors’ original article title – “There’s a SMART Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives” – the focus

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3 Tips for Dealing With Politics (or Other Touchy Subjects)

Sometimes, inspiration for my blog post comes from unexpected places – like a quiet, late-evening dinner on the road. After a successful day with a client, I arrived back at my hotel for a later-than-usual dinner. There were only a few people left in the restaurant, and I was seated near a table of three gentlemen. While I wasn’t interested in eavesdropping, it was impossible to not hear their conversation in the quiet room. From their discussion it was clear that they all worked for the same company and were traveling together on business. Two middle-aged men were obviously more senior managers, and they were accompanied by a junior colleague who appeared to be in his 20s. What surprised me was how their discussion turned

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hawkeye graphic from stamp & chase

America’s favorite doctor offers remarkable insight into how to improve communication

Enlightening perspective on how to improve the care experience for patients sometimes comes from unexpected places. It might not surprise you to learn that one of America’s best-known, most-beloved doctors has authored a book that provides great insights into how to make communication in health care better – until you learn that that doctor is Hawkeye Pierce. Since he retired as the head surgeon in the 4077th M*A*S*H unit on the iconic 70s television series, Alan Alda has devoted his time and intellectual energy to more than just acting and directing. During the 11 years he spent interviewing scientists for the documentary series Scientific American Frontiers, he became fascinated with how people communicate effectively. The results of his subsequent research are shared in his new

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team of medical staff holding up a thumbs up graphic from stamp & chase

Why a “5-to-1 Mindset” Fosters a High-Performance Culture

In our work with major health systems across the country, we’ve advocated leaders adopt the golden 5-to-1 ratio in their interactions with colleagues and their teams. This research-based strategy reveals the power of five positive comments for every one criticism in high-performing teams and organizations. This practice and the underlying research were cited in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, “The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio.” But an insightful observation from Dr. Matthew Wayne, chief medical officer of Summa Health Medical Group and NewHealth Collaborative, in a leadership workshop last week helped me see a flaw in the way people think about the 5-to-1 ratio. By definition, this leadership principle focuses on quantity. Dr. Wayne wisely pointed out that the practice works

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medical staffers in meeting with stamp & chase

The Power of Empowerment: “The Village has it Handled!”

In a leadership workshop earlier this month at Summa Health in Akron, OH, a manager shared one of the most definitive, straightforward affirmations of true staff empowerment that I’ve ever heard.  She explained that often when an issue or problem arises, by the time she becomes aware of it and approaches her team to work through a solution, she is confidently told, “Don’t worry; the village has it handled.”Empowerment is a frequently vaunted goal for high-functioning teams in today’s leadership literature. But while the term is commonly accepted, I’m not sure it best describes the true power of empowerment. When I clicked on the thesaurus feature in Microsoft Word while writing this post, I actually found a much better list of options: inspire, embolden, encourage,

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medical staff holding patients hand - graphic for stamp & chase

Sometimes Silence Isn’t Golden: Improving Patient Engagement by Encouraging Openness

Like most of our experiences in life, the patients and families we remember best are the ones whose satisfaction with our care falls at the extremes.  On one hand, the family that is effusive in their praise is one everyone likes to remember.  At the other extreme, we can’t forget the families who are disappointed and seem to be critical of virtually everything we do.  Even months after they’ve left the hospital, the experience of dealing with them is indelibly burned in our memory. While the families at the extremes of the satisfaction scale may be most memorable, the majority of the patients we care for likely fall somewhere in the middle.  These are the families that come and go rather quietly, neither sharing significant

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man with a clipboard graphic at stamp & chase

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Wreck Rounding

Over the past decade, health care leadership rounding has become a best-practice staple for organizations that are striving to improve patient experience, employee engagement and the overall culture of performance. While in healthcare we sometimes act like we invented the practice, it has been pursued in different forms for many years in other industries. If you are a disciple of Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System, you call it “going to the gemba.” Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard coined the term “management by walking around” in the 1960s when their rapidly-expanding technology company was growing beyond their capacity and ability to be involved in every detail of the business. In health care, our name for the practice of going to where the most important

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Healthcare Employee Engagement

Everyone Can Be a Caregiver (Even a CEO!)

Several years ago I was leading a management workshop at a very large health system. With over 200 people in the room, there was spirited discussion about the opportunities and obstacles to improving the patient experience in the system’s hospitals. I noticed one of the leaders patiently holding her hand up near the back of the room and made my way back to give her the microphone. She hesitantly started, “I’m the director of Environmental Services, and I know we don’t have a direct impact on patients’ care, but ….” While I hated to interrupt her, I just couldn’t let her opening statement stand without a polite challenge. “I’m really sorry, but I have to interrupt,” I respectfully said. “I have a list of stories

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nurse helping patient feel better graphic from stamp & chase

What We Can Learn from Truly Gifted Listeners

How many people have you encountered in your life who are truly gifted listeners? When I asked myself this question recently, I was honestly surprised with how short my list was. For me, this reflection was prompted by a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with my best friend from high school, David Grimm. His mom and dad were like second parents to me, and I deeply miss the conversations I had with his dad, who died a few years ago. David captured exactly why conversations with his dad were so gratifying. “When Dad talked to you, you were the only other person in the world and nothing was more important than what you were saying in that moment,” he reflected. “It really

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Patient Experience in Healthcare

Why Real Empathy Has to Start with Real Listening

Visiting with patients during rounds is one of the things I love most about my work with health care providers across the country. I remember conversations with patients that cover the range of emotions – uplifting, sad, funny, disheartening, frustrating … and almost always humbling. But it is a conversation with a paraplegic patient at a HealthSouth acute rehabilitation hospital a few years ago that I still reflect on often because of the important lesson it taught me. The nurse manager for the unit explained that Mr. Jones (not his real name) was a frequent patient at HealthSouth and would appreciate a visit. I walked into the room and did everything by the book, just like I’ve explained hundreds of times to thousands of caregivers in

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