Stooping to Greatness, Part 1

It’s ironic that I spend as much time as I do here and with colleagues on time management.  Ironic because I’m not naturally a very organized person.  The opposite is true.

I’ve learned the hard way (and the incredibly rewarding way) that the only way I can get to the VERY IMPORTANT x NON-URGENT stuff that will either transform a facility or take it to the next level is to become great at time management.

There’s a great thought in scripture that goes like this: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21).  Adapted to the nursing home administrator, we can say …

What you spend your time on, that’s what matters most to you.

You may protest.  You may say, “No, Dave.  The reality is I can’t get to what matters most to me because I have to spend so much time on this other stuff that keeps coming at me.”  As we climb up to the balcony and look down at our operations and at ourselves, we’ll probably see way too much work that is reactive vs. proactive.  Reversing that pattern is what separates the great leaders/facilities from the pack.  So …

  • First things first = First who, then what.  Let’s first surround ourselves with people more talented and driven than ourselves.  They’re there.  In every position.  If we settle for less than “A” talent, we will be settling for mediocrity and burnout.
  • Second (simultaneously), get the fundamentals in place.  Apply our Daily, Weekly, Monthly system approach to marketing, expense management, labor, clinical metrics/outcomes.
  • Third, control the monkeys before they lead to your downfall.
  • Fourth (and finally!), you now have time to dedicate to the fine-tuning, pro-active, culture building work that ONLY YOU can lead.

This post is the first of a series that I’ll dedicate to what I believe is the most important work of a healthcare leader: to create a powerful, unique culture.

Culture Model
My step-by-step, “how-to” reinvent the wheel. If you take your parent organization’s mission statement or use some other company’s culture stuff, you are missing the chance of a leader’s lifetime. There is a POWER that comes from the creative process. Or, the birthing process. What you collectively give birth to becomes your baby. You want to protect it. Nurture it. It becomes your competitive advantage that your competitors cannot replicate.

DOWNLOAD PDF Version Here: Culture Model

The title for this post, Stooping To Greatness, is stolen from a similarly themed article by Patrick Lencioni.  I’m a big fan of his books that illustrate simply and powerfully that what matters most to create lasting, quality success is the SOFT stuff.  The attention to people and culture.

The Silent Treatment vs. The Iron Chef

I asked: How do you know you’re doing a good job?

: No complaints.

I wrote on the white board in front of all the staff: Silence = Approval

I asked: Is that right?  Can anyone argue an opposing explanation for silence?

: They’re frustrated.  They don’t believe you’ll do anything.  They’re tired of talking/asking.  They don’t trust you.

Man, I could take this several directions, huh?  (That happened about 7 years ago in a very different setting than a skilled nursing facility, but it applies as you’ll see in a bit)

But, the reason for tonight’s post is to illustrate the oft-untapped power of scoreboarding in our skilled nursing facilities.

I get too preachy.  So, tonight (while writing at 35,000 feet on my way home to Baltimore), I’ll try to be brief and let the case study do the preaching.

At a recent facility, we had a problem with the food.  The main problem was it didn’t taste very good according to our patients.  Yep.  That’s a problem.

Here’s how scoreboarding helped to fix that …

First, data is power.  It’s one thing to have a lot of anecdotal evidence (often by other complaining department heads, second hand).  It’s a totally different ball game when you’re able to say, “last month we conducted 70 discharge satisfaction surveys.  On a scale of 0-10, satisfaction with food scored a 6.25 while nursing and therapy and everything else scored in the 8s and 9s.”

So, do you do DC satisfaction surveys for all your Discharges?

Now that we have data, we can set objective goals to celebrate successes and judge our decisions by.

I asked our Dietary Supervisor to put up a scoreboard of the things she wants to perfect in the kitchen.  Her team needs to be able to see it.  There should be Daily, Weekly, Monthly things that get scored.  There should be accountability, celebrations, etc.  You come up with it.  I want to see it up on the wall next week.

The Kitchen's Scoreboard. Fires me up!
The Kitchen’s Scoreboard. Fires me up!  She did way better than I could’ve.  And, she owns it because she created it.

In addition to the scoreboard we changed the menu completely and added a few hours to the department each day to allow the cooks to give a little bit more attention and time to their meals.

The dietary department now knew that they were being measured (for the first time) on objective key factors for satisfaction.  They knew their supervisor was stressed about the patient satisfaction.  They knew their jobs may be affected if they don’t score well too.

But, they had no idea that I cared.

And, the rest of the facility (particularly the department heads) didn’t know that I really cared about this and that the dietary manager was taking this so seriously.

So, I decided to go all food critic on them.  I channeled my inner Chef Ramsey.  I began to ask for test trays for lunch and dinner.  I created my own version of a scoreboard that ended up meaning a lot to them.  Why?  Because they see that I actually cared.  Silence can mean a lot of things to your staff.  But, it rarely means what you really intend.  We all fill in the void/the silence with our own fears/worries.

After a meal, I would send an email to the entire department head team with my Chef Ramsey Food Critic review.  My dietary manager braces herself when she sees an email from me about the meal and shares the usually-good news with her staff right away.  I’ve noticed a massive change in the morale and level of engagement of the dietary department — for the better.

Here are some of my reviews …

Laura (and team),

I just wanted to let you know that dinner was great tonight! The ham was moist (it’s really easy to make dry ham) and the taste was really good. Rice done perfectly. Spinach … well, cooked spinach is cooked spinach. The biscuit was tasty too. Presentation was appealing, as you can see. When I went down there to ask for a test tray tonight, I also noticed their scoreboard up in their break room. I LOVE it. Getting food to be loved by so many different palates is a serious challenge. Our scores are sometimes really high. Sometimes really low. We still have a ways to go, but in talking with Laura, I’m confident that we’re headed in the right direction.

Dave

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Team,

Ok … I won’t do this anymore for the whole team (yeah right) but here’s my food critic column for tonight’s dinner at the Sloan’s Lake restaurant.

Tonight’s food presentation was really good again! The chicken … the taste was good but it was dry and chewy. I thought about our patients maybe having a hard time cutting/chewing (don’t know if there’s a way to tenderize the chicken but that would probably help a lot. The mashed potatoes and gravy were really good and masked the dryness of the chicken well. The corn was pretty good and the roll was perfection. The desert was also good. On the sugary/sweet side, but good.

Before and after photos included.

The kitchen is on a roll!

Dave

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Laura/Team,

Lunch was very good today.  Thought you should know.  The meal: cod.  The fear: dry and overcooked or undercooked.  The result: perfectly cooked.  Moist.  Layers of fish fell away from each other easily.  Flavor?  Good.  I had to add salt to the whole plate, but would’ve been satisfied without doing so.  I add salt to just about everything.  Fish could’ve used a little more seasoning since the cod probably wasn’t caught yesterday in Alaska.  Nevertheless, very enjoyable.  I loved the cous cous and peas and carrots too.  The portion of fish could’ve been larger but I’m full after eating everything on my plate.  The dessert … some sort of cream puff cake.  Ummm, Yum.  I had to stop after two bites because I have a wife that I go home to, but it was surprisingly good.  As you can see the appearance was also very nice.  Hats off to Scott today.

image

What if I didn’t do this?  The whole food critic thing?  What would the dietary staff think mattered to me as the Executive Director?

I don’t know.  But, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t think that I cared much for their food or much about their work.

PS: August’s patient satisfaction scores hit 8!  The entire staff applauded the kitchen staff at our all staff meeting for their progress this week.  I just got the chills.  You?

“Systems In Place”

I had never heard that phrase until I got to long-term care.  Gotta get your systems in place.  Do you have systems in place?  Huh?

Our admissions process is broken.
Collections are killing us.
Our falls have increased every month for the past 4 months.
Patient satisfaction for food is low.
Our census is struggling.  We’re not really marketing.
Etc.

I’m not a naturally organized person.  In Myers Briggs terms, I’m an ENTP.  Much more of a dreamer/spontaneous preference than a structured/organized type.  So, when constantly pressed with the notion of having systems in place, I struggled to really get into it.  That difficulty caused me problems.

AND, when you combine a natural disinclination for structure with the ignorance of a rookie, my first facility was a disaster.

Or more accurately put, I was a disaster.

It wasn’t until my third facility when a certain light turned on.  Turns out to be one of the most important lights to turn on in my career.  How to get “systems in place.”

Of course, as you read on you’ll be tempted to think, “Really?  You didn’t know this?  This can’t be that big of a deal.”  Nevertheless, it has been a career changer for me.

Here’s how I can help get systems in place regardless of my experience or knowledge with the “system” or problem or poor outcome we’re trying to solve.

Systems-In-Place
The system tool

With this framework, I now have a way to solve problems in a systematic way – in a way that will stay solved long-term – regardless of my lack of experience or knowledge.

This isn’t the be-all, end-all.  You have to dig deep to the core problem you’re trying to solve.  But, once it’s time to set the system in place, you have to have answers for each of the boxes above in order to do it.

In other words, the more answers you have for the boxes in the system framework above, the stronger in place your system becomes.

I don’t need to be an expert in every department in the facility to effectively run the facility.  I just need to think critically & satisfy the framework above by asking the experts in the facility questions until I’ve filled in the system framework.

I usually start from the bottom up, with the scoreboard.  Stephen Covey famously taught to “begin with the end in mind” and that’s spirit of this.  I begin with the outcome we need and who, how, and when we’ll measure and “scoreboard” it.  Then, we work our way up to fill it in together with your staff.

That’s it.  Hope it helps.

“I’m a prisoner here.”

I just heard one of our patients say that.  He had been sitting in a chair outside my office for about an hour.  Quietly fuming inside.

About an hour earlier, he had pushed the elevator button when a therapist intervened.  It went something like this …

Where are you going?

Outside.

No, you can’t do that.

Why not?

You have to stay on your floor.

Oh, and why’s that?

Well, because we have to know where you are.  We’re responsible for your safety.

Ok.  I’ll tell you where I’m going.  Outside by the entrance.  I want to go outside.

No, you can’t leave this floor.  If something happens to you, we’ll get in a lot of trouble.

An hour later, his nurse and CNA both tried to get him to go to the dining room.  This time he was resolute.  He wouldn’t budge.  He called himself a prisoner b/c the staff wouldn’t let him leave.  I would’ve been the same way.  After a few back-and-forths about whether he would or would not go to dinner or even ever leave that chair, I stepped out of my office and said,

You want to go outside?

They won’t let me.

Who won’t let you?

The people here.

There must be some misunderstanding.  They probably meant that you needed to go with someone.

No.  They said, “You can’t leave this floor.”

Well … let me see what I can do.  [I went to the gym and asked the therapists about him.  They were thrilled with the idea of me escorting him outside.  They just didn’t want him to go alone as he still has a ways to go to get his strength back and is at risk for falling.  I came back with the good news.  He couldn’t believe it.]

We went down together and I pulled the bench into the sun.  Gorgeous day.  We talked for about 45 minutes.  WWII veteran.  married to a ‘saint’ for 60+ years.  A few kids.  He’s the last surviving child of 8 kids in his family.  He told me about his ‘crooked’ father in law who died with $500,000 in the bank.  We laughed.  I teased him.  He teased me back.  We talked about religion and faith and cashing in his chips after 92 years on the earth.  After a while, he said, “Well, is it time for dinner?”

Yeah, are you ready to go back in?

You bet.

He literally had a large smile on his face when he sat down to eat dinner (after everyone else had already eaten by this time).  It struck me as I sat back down in my office how differently that could’ve gone (and sadly too often does) … the nursing/therapy staff get frustrated by the patient’s “behavior” and start to treat him as an object more than as a person.  He becomes a problem.  Stubborn.  “Non-compliant.”  A pharmaceutical intervention is ordered and the man, the WWII veteran, loses a little bit of his identity and dignity and control.

As a facility leader, it’s my role to establish a culture within the facility where that latter scenario is avoided — when it’s avoidable.  We have to create a mission, a purpose for our staff that is larger than a paycheck or a task to constantly motivate them to SEE their brother, sister, mother, or father in the eyes of the patient sitting in that chair.  I saw the difference tonight in being task-driven/objectifying and human-driven/personalizing.

Our great challenge is to systematically enable our great staff to personalize their residents’ and patients’ experience …

The Biggest Bonus I Ever PAID

In a cluster of Colorado facilities I’ve been a part of these last couple months, we’ve been talking about how to create a culture — within our cluster/company and within our facilities.  It’s a topic I feel passionately about and one that I’ve personally participated in at a couple facilities and at a ‘corporate support office’ setting.  I’ve personally seen MASSIVE strides forward as teams dedicate themselves to a deliberate defining, planting, growing, and nurturing of a unique culture.  The process of creating that will be covered in another post.

Part of growing and nurturing a culture relates to where the rubber hits the road or when staff can see you put your carrot or stick where your mouth is.  The most powerful example of that is a story I’ve shared a lot in training settings about establishing a culture — a story of the biggest bonus I ever gave.

Several years ago, my new team and I had just defined our new culture.  Our mission, promise, motto, standards, etc.  It was time to show that it was real.
The culture was starting to do what it’s supposed to do — produce results (clinical and financial and resident/patient satisfaction).  After a solid month, I asked my department heads who “lived the culture in your departments the best.”  I received a handful of names and emailed my payroll manager the following:
On payday, please bring me the paychecks of Maria, Cathy, Jennie, Don, and Debbie. (names have been changed).  I’d like them to pick them up from me directly.  In addition, please create separate bonus checks in the following amounts:
     – Maria: $200
     – Cathy: $500
     – Jennie: $300
     – Don: $1,000
     – Debbie: $150
When payday came, Maria went to the payroll manager to pick up her check.  Here’s what went down …
Maria: Hi, can I have my check?
Payroll: Oh, no.  Sorry.  Dave has your check.
Maria: [struck with concern] But, why?
Payroll: You know … he didn’t say.  But, he wants to give it to you himself.
Maria: No.  Really.  Why?  What did I do?
Payroll: No idea, Maria.
     – Maria did not come to my office.  She spoke with the other housekeepers.  She confirmed her fear … they had all received their checks.  She was worried.  Was she going to lose her job?
     – Finally, after her shift was over, she came to my office.
Maria: Hello, Dave.
Me: Maria, come on in.  Have a seat.
Maria: Ok. Payroll tells me you have my check.
Me: Oh, right.  Yeah, have a seat.  [we sit down and I reach into my desk for her check(s)]
Me: Do you know why I have your check, Maria?
Maria: [Visibly worried] No.  Did I do something?
Me: [Smiling] … Sort of.  But, it’s not what you think.  See, last month was a very busy month here.
Maria: Yes.  Lots of room changes!
Me: That’s right.  You guys were very busy making room for the growing census.  Well, when we get very busy like that, we do better financially.  And when we do, we like to share it with those who were so important to making it happen.  So, last week I asked your supervisor, “who lived our culture [me pointing to the newly defined culture poster on my wall] this last month the best?”  Do you know who he said?
Maria: [Recognition coming to her of pending good news] Maybe me?
Me: Yes!  He said you.  In fact, here’s what he told me about you (related the specifics to the newly defined culture on the wall).
Maria is becoming visibly happy.
Me: So, yes … here’s your paycheck. And, here’s another check. It’s a small token of appreciation for being a great example of what we’re trying to become.
Maria: [she opens the bonus and immediately weeps.  As a housekeeper, she had never received a bonus before.]
We talked about what she’ll do with the money.  She’s SO grateful.  I tell her that compensation and bonuses are confidential so please don’t share this news with anyone.

This happens to be the best way to get the word out 🙂  Why?

= Her colleagues already know she didn’t get her paycheck and they’ll be anxious to hear why she had to get it from me directly.  She’ll tell them.  And, that’s exactly what I hope happens.
I hope that the message spreads fast that you can get a bonus when 1) we do well as a facility and 2) are modeling the behavior/culture we are striving to establish.
It’s the biggest bonus I ever paid as measured by its impact on our facility culture.  Here’s why:
  • Everybody was stoked for Maria
  • Communicating to Maria that she got it because of her supervisor built loyalty between her and her supervisor instead of between her and me.
  • Her supervisor, my direct report, was grateful that I made him look like a thoughtful, generous boss.
  • The staff began to believe that we really were committed to the mission we had collectively defined.

Now … multiply that by the other people who received bonuses that month and the subsequent 6 months and you can see how putting your money where your mouth is will ACCELERATE the momentum we need to as we’re looking to transform or strengthen the facility cultures we’re responsible for.

Ready, Fire, AIM

ready fire aim

One of the most important lessons of the last 12 months for me has been the perils of firing before sufficiently aiming.  With the Myers Briggs personality preferences as context, its easy to understand why this can be a huge stumbling block for some (like me) while a no-brainer for others.

By aiming, here’s what I mean …

  • Taking the time to engage those who will be affected by the ‘fire’ in discussion, debate, persuasion, listening, reconsidering.
  • Creating a plan and …
  • Creating it WITH the people who have to implement the ‘fire.’
  • Taking the time to test, reconfigure, test some more, get a scoreboard of results to show the org. BEFORE flipping the switch to require the change.  This is particularly necessary when there are mixed reviews with the current state.

There’s a balancing act here.  On the one hand you can aim too long (analysis paralysis) and results may suffer from that inaction.  On the other hand (the one that I dealt with most during the last 12 months) to pull the trigger too quickly (even if the decision is logical and the right one) can lead to a botched implementation that prevents the ‘right decision’ from taking root.

Though somewhat against my nature, I’m working at ‘taking the time’ to talk with most involved parties.  I’m convinced this doesn’t have to be a slow process.  It just has to happen.  I’m reminded of what the book 5 Dysfunctions of a Team teaches on this topic … that without conflict/debate/dissent/discussion, real buy-in or commitment cannot take place.  But, with that pre-decision conflict, even those who disagree can come around and commit — knowing that their voices were heard AND having had a chance to better understand the rationale/intent of the other side.

Do you share financials w/ staff?

3 legged stool

 

I am all about analogies.  It’s a curse.  It’s my go-to.  I have a problem.  But, sometimes it really just works.  (I’ll get to it … hang with me).

Nursing Home Administrators are easily seen by their care-giver/clinician staff as only caring about the financial aspects of the facility.  Years ago I became very reluctant to share financial information with my staff out of fear that they would think that’s all I cared about.  I also feared they would mishandle the information.

As though they weren’t sophisticated enough to appreciate the need for the facility to ‘make money.’

So, instead of educating staff on the financial fundamentals and enlisting their help to eliminate waste and be efficient as co-owners of the facility and their departments, we ration out just enough information to get them to do what we want.  We give them a budget for hours or expenses for the month based on our projected census.  They toil away under your close management, trying to hit that budget WITHOUT understanding the larger picture.  I’m not saying that doesn’t ‘get the job done’ b/c in many cases it does.  But, they deserve more.  And with the trust you give them (along with the education), something powerful happens … they come alive and take MORE ownership of their responsibilities.  They take pride in their new understanding and they become more creative problem solvers, now that they see the whole problem to solve and not just their little piece.

Here’s what I’ve concluded …

… if presented properly, sharing the financial realities (challenges and successes) are an empowering, trust-building lever administrators should pull in their management of the facility.

The key phrase, of course, is ‘if presented properly.’  I’ve been burned by sharing facility financial information.  So … the best way I’ve found to empower my staff with this lever is to use the analogy of the 3 Legged Stool.  Here’s how the conversation went at a recent all-staff meeting at a facility that has been losing money ….

Me: What do you think I care most about?

Them: [Thinking: I’m not stupid enough to answer that question … Suspicious smile … long pause]

Me: Really.  It’s ok.  What do you think I care most about in running this facility?

Them: [Still Thinking: I don’t know him well enough to be honest.  He’s just like all the rest, probably.  Money.  The answer is money].  “Patient Care.”

Me: Yes.  What else?

Them: [Oh, there’s more than one answer.  I’ll say it …]  Profits.

Me: Yes.  What else?

Them: [What a dork.  He can’t care MOST about more than one thing!] Ummm … Customer Satisfaction?

Me: Yes.  But, how can I care MOST about more than one thing?  Have any of you ever seen a 3 legged stool?

Them: Yes, of course.

Me: Which leg is most important?  Which leg do you care most about when you sit on it?

Them: The one that’s going to break.

Me: Put yourself in my shoes.  If you were me, what would you say make up the 3 legs holding up our facility?

Them: Money, Patient Care … and … ?

Me: And … customer & employee satisfaction.  Which one do you think I think is most important?

Them: Whichever is weakest?

Me: That’s right.  That’s exactly right.  You’ve heard me talk a lot lately about some our financial challenges.  You’ve seen me tighten up our processes around approving overtime and tightening our belt in other ways too.  We’ve had to flex staffing to appropriate levels that match our lower census.  Our patient care is great.  Our customer satisfaction is high.  Our turnover is low.  But, financially, the facility has been losing money for a few months in a row because we haven’t adjusted our spending appropriately to our low census.  Right now, the leg that’s weakest … the leg’s that’s breaking is the financial one and we have to strengthen it.  Here’s what we’re doing (overview of efficiencies we’re trying to regain).  What else do you suggest we try?  What can you do to help?

(I then asked if any of them had ever been ‘cancelled’ or sent home early from a shift.  100% of their hands shot up.  I asked if they understood the rationale for flexing hours.  If they understood nursing hours PPD and the state minimum requirements.  They did not.  I explained how the hours PPD number is calculated and we calculated it for our facility).  They saw – and understood – how high we were staffed.  They began to ask insightful questions about staffing for acuity and skilled mix and how we derive our goals/staffing targets (which the director of nursing determines based on acuity, by the way).

The feedback from the meeting was very positive.  They went to work the next day with a sounder understanding of what makes me/us tick and WHY we’re managing the financial side of things so tightly right now.  I finished the meeting focusing on the other two legs.  I reaffirmed to them where my heart/passion lie … in creating an environment where they are free to thrive as caregivers.  An environment that creates a surprising experience for our patients and their families.  I concluded with the Cab Driver story.  That’s at an all staff meeting.

1:1 meetings with department heads allow for deeper education on the financial management of the facility and their departments.  I recommend we stop rationing crumbs to the ‘leaders’ of the facility.  Let’s let them eat at the table.  (See?  I had to throw in another analogy!)  Let’s be more transparent with our P&Ls so they can take ownership, and eventual PRIDE in the successful operation they’re responsible for shaping.

“You Don’t Have Credibility”

Ouch.  No, really.  That hurt.

Can you hear more humbling words as a new leader?  That’s what our CEO told me years ago when I passionately made the case for him to have me train anyone in the organization who would listen about creating a world-class service environment in their facilities.

I had just gotten religion and like any new convert, I was ready to evangelize.

ritz carltonAfter attending a Ritz Carlton day-long training, I was convinced that becoming the ‘Ritz Carlton’ of skilled nursing facilities would be the ultimate lever to pull to transform and turn around a facility that had failed survey 8 years in a row (under prior ownership) and lost us a lot of money out of the gate.  Not only that, but I had found my voice as a young leader in long-term care.  I came back to my facility after that training and, with my team, created our version of a world class service culture.

(Remind me to post on the process later b/c the process is where the magic lies, not the outcome).

After just a couple months of establishing the new culture, I made my pitch to our CEO.  I can get pretty animated when I’m talking/debating/evangelizing something I’m passionate about.  I knew this was the answer for my facility and, therefore, all of our operations.

One thing you got to know about him is that one of his greatest strengths, in my opinion, as a leader, is how he encourages entrepreneurship, innovation, intelligent risks.  He rarely says no to the enthusiasm of his partners.  So … after listening to me go on and on about world class service being the game changer for our group and my desire to hit the road to train all of our facilities in it, he said (to the effect of):

“You don’t have enough credibility — yet.”

[Dramatic Pause]

I was a combination of offended/disappointed/humbled/surprised.  Initially, I thought he was stupid.  I thought to myself (and out-loud to him): “how can you argue against elevating, systematically and massively, the level of customer service in our facilities?!  It’s going to pay off!”

Looking back, I’m EXTREMELY fortunate to have had this lesson taught to me in such a poignant way at an early stage in my career.  He was, in fact, not stupid at all.  He was totally right.  At the time I couldn’t see it.  But, just 18 months later it was crystal clear…

The facility had transformed.  In about 12 months time it went from worst to first in the org. financially and passed survey for the first time in 9 years.  Customer satisfaction was high.  Turnover was low.  We had RESULTS.  Those results are what caused my partners throughout the org. to PULL me to their facilities to share what we had done instead of me trying to PUSH my way on to their radars.

He was right.  Ideas and passion are important when it comes to bringing transformative ideas/culture to a facility or organization.  But, if presented prematurely — before the results or proof to back it up — the idea or idea giver won’t take root and won’t make the difference s/he’s so passionately trying to make.

18 months later, I began each training session on world class service with the results – Before on the left side of the white board and After on the right side.  I then put a big question mark in between.  The stark difference in the before and after is what brings the credibility … and causes the DEMAND for you and your ideas.

The Other Day …

It’s easy now to look back and see the wisdom of my CEO’s candid rebuke.  But, at the time it was devastating ego-bursting stuff.  I recently interviewed someone who wanted to be a regional resource.  He has a magnetic, positive personality and he knows his stuff.  His problem, however, is that his on-paper results are sub-par.  We talked candidly about the huge challenge he would have coaching/teaching others without being able to say, “Do this because I did and look at my superior results.”  For him, like me years ago, the timing isn’t right.  I’m sure he’ll get his shot … when his results match his enthusiasm.

Credibility

Credibility: “the quality or power of inspiring belief” (webster)

Credibility may be the single most important thing a leader possesses in order to effectively lead. During the past 12 months I’ve learned the hard way this lesson, that on the surface seems obvious, but to those of us who suffer from inflated egos, can be a crippling blind spot …

Credibility is a non-transferable asset.

When you move from one group, team, division, or company to another, you start over. You start over … if you’re smart. If you’re blind to the fact that credibility is a non-transferable asset, you assume that these new people who you need to develop relationships of trust with will pick up with you where your former group, team, division, or company left off. Or, you assume that the new group, team, division, or company will quickly see in you what the former did. It doesn’t work that way.

So, what inspires belief? For me, a leader’s true intention must be made clear. Second, his/her actions must match that intention. Third, those actions must lead to the desired results.

Some questions I wish were more front and center for myself this last year …

* Am I taking the time with each individual to articulate my intention and related plans?
* Am I acting as though I already have their trust prematurely (i.e., making unilateral decisions, trusting that they will buy-in b/c the decision is coming from … me)?
* Am I holding myself accountable for the results?

The number of initials that follow your name, the resume, the references … they get you through the door. But, once you’re in, you START OVER at earning the credibility of those you lead and those that lead you … if you’re smart.

Mothers in long-term care

I was asked to speak in church today.  Mother’s Day.  No pressure.

As I prepared for my talk, I remembered a classic, inspiring, true story of a taxi driver who picked up somebody’s elderly mother late one night to take her to a hospice facility.  It didn’t end up fitting into my talk, but I wanted to share it here.  I’ll be sharing it with the staff at the two facilities in Denver I’ve been helping with this week.  Enjoy.  And, pass it on.

“Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.

“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice.

I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers.”

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.”

– http://kentnerburn.com/archives/391