Leadership — Tough Decision & Humility

I was reminded today the importance to lead with humility.

Imagine yourself walking into an extremely important meeting. A meeting in which you have prepared weeks in advance to ensure you have created a story that will resonate with those in attendance. A meeting in which you want to ensure you deliver value to those giving you their time.

Now imagine walking into this meeting only to realize that the main stakeholder is a former employee that you had to fire years ago in another organization.

How do you react? How do you act? How do you proceed?

I did what I always do…I smiled, introduced myself, and proceeded to try to share as much value as I possibly could in a 45-minute discussion.

During the Q&A session, this person decided to take a slightly different approach, they decided to try and “roast” me. They did their very best to try and poke holes in my viewpoint. They tried to discredit my experience and story. They even tried to prove me wrong.

I graciously accepted all of the questions.

I politely smiled and responded with dignity.

Lastly, someone else then asked me the following question:

“What is the one piece of advice you have for new leaders?”

I paused. I collected my thoughts. I responded from the heart with the following,

The best piece of advice I can share with new leaders is to remain humble. As you move into new roles, whether within this organization or another, you will need to assess if you have the right people in the right functions at the right time. You will need to make difficult decisions that will impact people’s lives as well as that of the organization. (Hospital, a medical technology company, etc.) It doesn’t mean you do not like a person. It doesn’t mean that you believe someone is incompetent. It doesn’t mean you think a person is doing a poor job. Being a leader means leading. It means making sure you have the right people with the best skill set doing the work to move the organization forward. Remember to be humble when making those decisions. Always remember to communicate those decisions with kindness, empathy, and humility. Remember to treat the other person with dignity.

I stopped, I turned to see the response from my former colleague, and I saw them nod in agreement.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I did not get a chance to shake their hand or to say hello. They had left the auditorium.

I did get an email. An email that apologized for their actions along with a thank you for treating them with dignity while needing to make a difficult decision as a leader.

Leadership, like healthcare, is delivered at the N of 1.

As always feel free to email me at cancergeek@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram as CancerGeek



Healthcare — Remember Stephen Hawking

(above photo via Nitch.com)

This week the greatest mind of several generations passed away, Stephen Hawking.

I have always been a huge fan of Stephen Hawking and have read a majority of his books (link here), some of his papers (papers here) listened to several of his lectures (videos here), and have a running list of his quotes (quotes here).

One of my favorite quotes from Stephen Hawking is pictured below:

“Be curious. And how difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” ~Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was the living example of this belief.

Here was a man that was diagnosed with a debilitating motor neuron disease known to us as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gerhig’s Disease. Stephen Hawking was diagnosed at the age of 21 and was told he had 2 years to live. He was confined to a wheelchair until he died last week at the age of 76.

Despite the life-altering diagnosis, a debilitating physical disease, being confined to a wheelchair, and losing his ability to speak without the help of a computer-generated voice, Stephen Hawking still became the greatest mind of our time.

He lived, laughed, and loved.

Healthcare must remember the story of Stephen Hawking.

Often we get bogged down by the inefficient processes and workflows inside healthcare.

We whine about relative value units and productivity.

The difficulty to acquire preauthorizations.

The obscenity in sharing data, having a unified record and making it accessible to patients.

We play the blame game that medical technology companies, EMR/EHR Vendors, and Government Agencies have forced us to make decisions that make us less efficient, take us away from patient care, and increase clinical/physician burnout.

We use the rules and regulations set forth by the Regulators as an excuse to run and hide.

Our greatest minds have been diminished to a workforce that follows the rules, raises their hands, colors within the lines, and measures their value in productivity instead of the lives they have touched.

We too often look down at our devices during work, conferences, meetings, and in our spare time. We have become acclimated to a Pavlovian response to the rings, dings, pings and other things.

As healthcare leaders, both physicians and non-physicians, we need to remember the privilege of proximity that we have in viewing our stars each and every day. The person, the people, the community, and the patient(s) that entrust us with their lives.

A patient life is our star.

The multiple patients we see over a day, a month and a year are the stars we get to observe, discover, name and learn. Our careers are nothing more than a galaxy made up of many stars, or more specifically, the patients we serve.

As leaders in healthcare, we must remain curious.

We must ask the difficult questions. We need to have constructive conflict. We can no longer nod in silent acceptance without first discussing in an open forum the impacts of our decisions. We cannot throw our hands up and say it is too difficult, too hard, too complex, too inefficient, too tedious, or too time-consuming.

We must not accept NO’s, CANT’s, DONT’s or WON’T’s.

We must lead with “I like this, and I wish that…”

We must lead with “….and?”

We must lead with a curiosity in the greater context of how the universe around us works. Not merely healthcare, but the multiple dimensions of our lives.

As we become more intimate in the other universes that envelop us, we can begin to connect those dimensions into the reality of what patients want: health AND care.

We must be curious in our discovery and pursuit of health AND care.

We need to be in awe of the stars we encounter each and every day.

We can never give up.

Care matters at the N of 1.

As always feel free to email me at cancergeek@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram as CancerGeek