The Boss Who Sneaked Onto a Plane

southwestOn Sunday evening I was on the first of two flights that would take me home to Pittsburgh from a multi-day training event in Austin, Texas. As I do most of the time, I was flying Southwest Airlines.

Shortly after takeoff a man in a Southwest dress shirt stood and asked for our attention. He introduced himself as Sam, the regional head of flight attendants. Sam shared that he wanted to take a moment to recognize Brian who was currently serving our flight. From his pocket, Sam pulled out and read a letter, sent in by a passenger, describing the way Brian had helped her with her fussy infant on a recent flight. After reading the letter, Sam told us he had secretly “snuck onto the flight” to surprise Brian with this public display of appreciation, because “we get compliments about Brian all the time and are lucky to have him with us at Southwest.” At Sam’s request, the whole cabin gave Brian a rousing ovation. While Brian, blushing and trying to get smaller, shook his boss’s hand, his fellow flight attendants cheered him on with affection and respect. And moments later, when few were still watching, I saw Sam look into Brian’s eyes and say, with deep and sincere appreciation, “Thank you…for all that you do.” Continue reading

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Are You Brave Enough as a Leader?

braveryThis weekend my daughter (who is almost 5) asked me a thoughtful question at dinner.

“Daddy, what is bravery?”

Several thoughts flashed through my mind in an instant. I wanted to give her an answer simplistic enough for her to understand but accurate enough to address the complexity of her question.

Bravery is when you’re not afraid, I thought, then immediately rejected that answer. “Bravery isn’t the absence of fear!,” my mind yelled. “Most people who have to be brave admit to also being quite scared at the same time!”

I decided at that moment to use a definition of the word courage I’d heard years earlier. Continue reading

How to Improve ANY Part of your Healthcare Team’s Performance

String-around-fingerThink back to your first week at your current job. Did you go through an orientation program? Did your new boss go over information and materials with you? Did you shadow someone who reviewed processes and procedures or do’s and don’ts?

How much of that information can you actively recall? Repeat?

Not much, I’d wager.

Turns out that even the most dedicated, educated, focused among us are limited in our capacity to retain information. Your healthcare team is no different. While dealing with the countless tasks, challenges, and responsibilities of each day, they focus primarily on what is directly in front of them and rely on knowledge and habits that have been ingrained over time. They are, after all, human. This is why leaders who want teams to reach and maintain a high level of performance find creative ways to reinforce new or desired behavior over and over again. These ever-changing refreshers dot the landscape of the workplace and are encountered repeatedly by employees.

Continue reading

Exit Interviews Are Stupid. Stop Doing Them.

exit-interview-293jt020112It’s a bit absurd if you think about it.

The employee who has chosen to leave is consulted as to the direction and performance of the team and organization.

Doesn’t really make a lot of sense, does it?

We assume that, freed from the need for self-preservation, these departing employees will shine a light on what’s really going on in the unit or practice. That these interviews, when compiled, will identify patterns or prevalent issues in need of reform.

Here’s an idea. How about asking your current employees? Continue reading

Employee Engagement: It Ain’t About the Money, Folks…

pay and bonusesLast week I came across a LinkedIn article given high visibility on what drives employee engagement. The author’s three suggestions were 1) share profit info with employees so they can see their impact; 2) hold events like summer picnics to bring together a family atmosphere; and 3) share success in the form of monetary gifts like bonuses and gift certificates.

While #2 is spot on (cultivating team relationships is key to engagement), #1 and #3 miss the mark. Profits and bonuses are extrinsic motivators. While they certainly serve a purpose and can result in short-term gains in performance, employee engagement depends on our ability to tap into intrinsic motivation in each employee.  Continue reading

Employee Engagement: Defined and Debunked

employee_engagementHaving spent many years designing and delivering leadership training for managers specifically tied to influencing employee engagement, I’ve encountered all manner of engagement “experts.” In fact, I’m finding it’s rare to meet a speaker, author, blogger, coach, or consultant who doesn’t claim to have expertise in this area. It also doesn’t help that there is widespread dispute as to what employee engagement is and how to leverage it to improve performance. Much of this is driven by competing interests. Google “employee engagement” and you’ll find hundreds of organizations each with their own definition, their own assessment tool, and their own team of experts with a solutions package that **“gets results!”**

(And yes, I did just use “Google” as a verb. It’s sort of been a thing since about 2011.)

So here, dear reader, for the purposes of clarification and education, is a quick primer on what employee engagement is, what it isn’t, and why you should care about it. Be warned though: along the way you’ll have to endure some terribly boring terms like key performance indicators, metrics, and quantifiable. I promise to use them sparingly.  Continue reading