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January | 2011


Courageous Leadership

TED Talks

The Health Care Corner

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Courageous Leadership

Think Big, Act Small

Thirty-seven per cent of Americans report being disappointed in their political, business, education, and religious leaders. Furthermore only 38% think our leaders are doing a good job. These results from Harvard University's Center for Leadership annual report yield one clear conclusion. Most of us think, as a nation, we have a crisis in leadership.

Now, in the interest of transparency, the report does state that we have an above average amount of confidence in the leadership of our military, non-profit, charitable organizations, and health care, but we are below average in our confidence of those on Wall Street, in the executive suites of business, in the news media, government offices and in the sanctuary's of our religious institutions. We want to believe in our leaders, we want to be able to follow our leaders, but sometimes they just make that too difficult to do and that leaves us disappointed.

It's not much different in the workplace. A 2007 survey completed by Towers Perrin showed that only 4 in 10 employees thought their employers were accessible, were credible in how they communicated, and were concerned about their staff. Additionally less than 50% of employees thought their leader's actions were consistent with the espoused values of the workplace.

This all came to the surface for me in a recent consulting episode with a client I'll call Mark. Mark, who is a senior leader with a Fortune 1000 company, contacted me to improve the "buy-in" from his team. It seems that during his 3 years in his current role, he had streamlined operations, developed workplace processes, and improved IT capabilities, but his division was still operating below benchmarks when compared to other divisions in the organization. When I completed my 360o interviews, most of his direct reports told me that despite his good management actions, Mark was just not a credible leader. He had the big picture perspective of what needed to be done (and often did it) but he could not deliver on the small actions necessary to be seen as a real leader.

There are two things leaders must do to get their employees to believe in them.

  1. They must implement the big ideas effectively. Big ideas include the why we exist, how we get there, what we value, and what's in it for me (as an employee and a manager).
  2. They must make their small actions consistent with the big ones. These include being good listeners, making time to get to know people, and behaving at work in a way that is consistent with the goals of the organization.

Mark had all the right steps for number one and did a lot of things right but unfortunately his staff didn't perceive that he did them with the integrity and consistency that they needed to see to believe in him. The result was that they made half-hearted efforts at getting the job done, but not much more than that.

Mark made the decision to change the conversation with his staff, both literally and figuratively. As his staff mentioned later, he seemed to become more of a person to them. He made time to stop off and talk with people more frequently. He was more consistent in how he evaluated projects; he spoke more openly at meetings expressing his perspective as part of the planning process instead of waiting until everything was discussed. He also freely gave credit to the people who were getting the job done in public and private settings. Small actions on Mark's part helped round him out as a leader and created a workplace that is now embracing his leadership.


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TED Talks

Do you feel overwhelmed by complexity? When you confront a problem that has multiple tentacles, thorny issues, and knotty problems, is your strategy to get out your 5 X 10 bulletin board and try to map out all the possible variables that can lead to a successful outcome?

In three minutes, Eric Berlow, an environmental ecologist shows us the path from complex to simple and how we can embrace simplicity to solve the complex. Going into the web of the US military's strategy for victory in Afghanistan he points out that there are two key actionable strategies that are really at the heart of our country's efforts to win the peace in that troubled part of the world. As Eric says, "We're discovering in nature that simplicity often lies on the other side of complexity". To see his presentation, click on this link: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/eric_berlow_how_complexity_leads_to_simplicity.html


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The Health Care Corner

Health care improvement won't happen based on edicts from the government but by the actions of individuals and their commitment to their own health care improvement. A recent study by the Center for Advancing Health focused on how to improve the way each of us interacts (or engages) with the health care system.

Engagement is a word used to describe the behaviors (not attitudes) each of us uses to "obtain the greatest benefit from health care services available to them". Not surprisingly, most people are not very good at implementing new behaviors nor are they confident that they can implement new behaviors. In a study done by Judith Hibbard at the University of Oregon, only 23% of people in her report had adopted new behaviors following recommendations from their doctors, but even this group of "behavior changers" was not confident they could maintain these positive behaviors.

The Center identified 9 different sets of actions people could take to improve their engagement with the health care system and to ultimately take charge of their own health care instead of just turning it over to their doctor or health insurance company. These include:

  1. Finding safe and decent care that means having a relationship with a doctor who is trustworthy and provides appropriate information at the right time.
  2. Communicating effectively with healthcare professionals by bringing the right information to appointments and asking questions such as medications, exercise routines and symptom descriptions
  3. Organize healthcare information with all necessary paperwork including medical records and insurance information and by taking notes or bringing a friend or family member along if the medical situation is complex.
  4. Pay for healthcare by finding out about costs up front and how much insurance will or will not pay within the stated policy benefits.
  5. Make good treatment decisions by gathering enough expert advice, reviewing the scientific evidence and negotiating a treatment plan with the provider.
  6. Participating in treatment translates to learning about new medications and procedures, taking medications as prescribed, and monitoring and reporting on changes in your symptoms.
  7. Promote health and get preventive care that includes screening tests and programs that promote health and wellness including nutrition, exercise and stress resilience.
  8. Plan for end of life by completing advance directives and discussing these matters with family and physicians.
  9. Seek Health Knowledge by understanding one's own personal risks for poor health and setting personal health targets for things like weight and blood pressure.

Improving health care and your own health care will take small incremental steps on each of our parts. These 9 actions include many of the key steps we all can take. Try a couple out and see if you experience more control and an increased understanding of your health care needs.


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