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

9 Strategies to Get Employees Talking in One-on-Ones

one word answers“How are things?” you ask.

“Good,” she replies.

“What’s been keeping you busy?”

“Normal stuff, I guess.”

“Like what? What are the kinds of things demanding your attention and effort these  days?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary.” Continue reading

Lousy Lettuce, a Rare Steak, and the Absence of Purpose

restaurantYesterday was my birthday. It was a little disappointing.

As is customary, my wife and I and our two children planned to enjoy dinner out at a local restaurant. I looked forward to it all week, as I do most of the cooking in our house. A good meal at a nice restaurant that I neither have to prepare or clean up is certainly a nice birthday gift.

When our salads were brought to the table, I sighed. Underneath the fresh tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and oversized croutons was a bed of greens, many of which were black and slimy around the edges. “My lettuce is rotten,” I told my wife. “Check your salad.” Unfortunately, her salad was also in bad shape. Continue reading

Is Your Healthcare Team Warm Enough?

Healthcare teamworkTamika rushes into the clinic. She’s late. 32 minutes late, to be precise. As she arrives she meets the eyes of the Medical Receptionist, who glances at her disapprovingly. Darting into the back, she pulls off her gloves and hurriedly hangs her coat in her locker.

Her manager, Kate, is suddenly there. “You’re late” she declares.  Continue reading

Improve Patient Satisfaction Scores by Focusing on Employee Strengths

what are you best at?A high-quality patient experience comes from patients encountering employees who are in the right roles. This is the conclusion drawn by the employee engagement experts over at Gallup.

What are the right roles for employees? According to research, employees perform at their best when they are allowed to deploy their strengths frequently at work. Continue reading

Don’t Aspire to a Stress-Free Workplace

zen nurseI recently came across this Huffington Post article on ways to boost employee engagement. While most of the author’s recommendations are grounded in established research, one in particular made me do a double-take.

#4 Eliminate Stress. Impossible deadlines or excessive workloads will erode job satisfaction for even the most dedicated team members…Strive to create a stress-free environment by setting realistic deadlines and keeping projects manageable.

I’ve been training physicians and managers in healthcare for years. If I stood in front of an audience and told them that to achieve engagement they needed to eliminate stress for their employees, I’d get laughed out of the room. Recommendations like this are what cause leaders at all levels to view engagement as nothing more than an unachievable ideal. Continue reading

Who’s the Boss?

CCL coverThe following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Cure for the Common Leader: What Physicians & Managers Must Do to Engage and Inspire Healthcare Teams, scheduled for release on November 1.

Ask your front desk person who is in charge of the practice overall. What will she say? Ask her who her boss is. Does she give the same answer?

In many healthcare settings employees interact with two levels of supervisory authority: the operational leaders charged with their day-to-day supervision, and physicians. The office manager, unit director, nurse coordinator, or practice manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the site and the duties of team members. These managers often hire, train, and supervise the employee. They coordinate the employee’s schedule, answer their questions, and serve as the primary liaison between employee and employer. Physicians, on the other hand, possess a different kind of power. Continue reading