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.
After 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.”
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.