Rounding on employees and other customers has been widely recognized as a best practice in building a desirable culture. When we help hospitals, medical practices, and systems with a culture turnaround, rounding is pivotal. But I’ve learned to not assume that every leader is comfortable with rounding. In fact, I’m downright surprised to realize how many leaders are literally paralyzed at the thought of having to walk up and initiate a discussion with a staff member or patient. When leaders are nervous about rounding, the result is a perfunctory effort where they are physically present in the department and do a quick drive-by.
Fear is usually at the core of this behavior. In fact, I’ve witnessed long, involved conversations in the c-suite fraught with excuses and frankly, farfetched hypothetical examples of what could go wrong during rounding. These lively and sometimes emotional discussions boil down to excuses fueled by fear.
What are these otherwise competent leaders afraid of? I’m not a psychologist but I am an astute observer. So let me play the armchair quarterback here and take a stab at some of the fears that have surfaced during these discussions. They include:
- Fear of not feeling welcomed in the departments
- Fear of looking stupid
- Fear of not having all the answers
- Fear that someone will use the discussion to undermine their department leader’s authority
Let’s get clear though. Being fearful of something cannot stop you from doing what is right and best for the organization. It’s not a matter of IF you should round, but rather HOW to get it done to achieve your objectives.
Rounding is a skill like anything else. Ask any nurse who is highly skilled at starting IVs, and you’ll find it took practice and preparation to get to that level. The best surgeons in the world didn’t achieve that acclaim during their first cut. Rather they built their skills over time.
Rounding and the associated interpersonal interactions can be learned through self-awareness, planning, and practice. First, become aware of the root of your misgivings. Then, plan for what you can say and do in various situations that make you uncomfortable. Consider asking another leader if you can round with him or her to see how they interact. And practice. Over time, it gets easier and the rewards will far outweigh the discomfort.