It is Christmas Day as I’m writing this blog. This quiet afternoon took me back to a similar Christmas afternoon in 1998. I was the new CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and that afternoon I made one of the best spur-of-the-moment decisions I’ve ever made as a healthcare leader.
Our kids were young at the time. Between the excitement of opening gifts on Christmas morning and our traditional holiday dinner, things were very quiet around the house. Out of the blue, I said to my wife Luanne, “I think I’m going to go down to the hospital for a little while.”
“To work?!” she said. “It’s Christmas.”
“No, just to walk around and tell the staff how much I appreciate them being there on Christmas Day,” I explained. She nodded and said, “I think that sounds like a great idea.”
At no time in recent memory have the demands on leaders been more exhausting and protracted than in 2020. This blog on the topic of leadership rounding is installment #3 in our series, Leadership in the Time of Coronavirus.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that I would get much more from spending a couple of hours talking with our staff than they would. Maybe it was because I was caught up in the spirit of the season, but the gifts of care and compassion that our staff gave to families everyday struck me in an especially powerful way that afternoon.
I got lots of smiles and a few hugs from individuals I knew well. And I still smile when I think about the interaction I had with one of our intensive care nurses that day. When I told her how much I appreciated her working on Christmas, she shrugged and said, “It’s really not a big deal.”
“No, it is a big deal,” I insisted. To which she smiled and replied, “No, it really isn’t. I’m Jewish.” We laughed, and so did her colleagues within earshot.
Especially right now, leadership visibility, personal expressions of gratitude, and listening empathetically to the struggles that staff are facing are even more important. If as a leader you are not spending at least an hour or two each week rounding with frontline staff, you are missing an important opportunity to boost the morale and spirits of your team … and yourself.