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Leaders: Are you what you say you are?

Posted by Kristin Baird on September 3rd, 2013 • No Comments »

For years, I’ve written and spoken about moments of truth in the patient experience. Susan Keane Baker shares a great definition of the “moment of truth” in her book, Managing Patient Expectations. She defines the moment of truth as, “The moment when your patient decides if you are what you say you are.” This definition implies the need for integrity, consistency, and ownership in every encounter with every customer every day.

As the Baird Group has worked with healthcare organizations, we have observed that there are leadership moments of truth as well as those related to the patient. These are the times when employees decide if their leaders are what they say they are. The importance of these moments cannot be stressed enough. Credibility is on the line, and the employees are watching to see if their leaders are paying mere lip service to service, culture, and accountability, or if they mean what they say.

In just one week, two of our client CEOs encountered crucial moments of truth and each took action in his own way. Their actions were noted by staff, and, in each case, these “legends” grew legs and took off running through their respective hospitals.

In one case, when challenged by a doctor about a new patient-centered policy, the CEO backed down, allowing the physician to return to old behaviors.

In the other case, the CEO held his ground and actually supported a termination of someone who was in clear violation of core values.

In both cases, the hospitals had just completed house-wide service excellence training that reinforced patient-centeredness, core values, and service standards. Also in both cases, the senior leaders had publicly stated their commitment to upholding the values and standards, yet the two CEOs opted to respond in completely different ways when their values and standards were threatened by behaviors of staff or physicians.

Baird Group leadership development reinforces the need for leaders at all levels to make a firm commitment to accountability and upholding values and standards. There will be forks in the road where the leader will have to make a decision. The question is if that decision will be aligned with stated commitments. Will that decision enhance or erode your credibility?

These forks in the road are the moments of truth when the staff is deciding if you are what you say you are. You cannot avoid these forks in the road, but you can try to prepare for them by envisioning various challenges and planning ahead for how you can respond.

Another way to avoid making rash decisions that might come back to bite you is to take a deep breath, calmly listen to the resister, and then agree to take the concern under consideration. This gives enough of a delay that you can reflect on the situation and take action based on values and commitments.

Believe it or not, even seemingly small decisions and actions can put your credibility on the line. Take the time to make sure your decisions are consistent with the values. That way, you can truly be what you say you are.

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Baird Consulting


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