When I took on TriStar Centennial Medical Center as their IT Director, I inherited a team of nearly 30 seasoned, dedicated team members that were good at their jobs. The knew the facilities (650+ beds spread out over multiple campuses) inside and out, had long-standing relationships with both staff and leadership, and were–generally speaking–well thought of by their peers. It was, in my opinion, a good team to take on as a leader.
Talking with the team over my first few months, however, I discovered underlying feelings and perceptions that ran contrary to the results we were delivering. While we had reasonably high employee engagement scores, there was a sense of discontent and a feeling of being beat down by the work. When I took a step back and reflected on all of conversations with the team, I had a few questions that I needed to answer:
- How can such a well-established team, with positive working relationships, feel this way?
- How are these feelings impacting the service we are being asked to provide?
- How are these feelings limiting our relationships with the rest of the hospital?
As I dug in to the answers of the questions, I came to the conclusion that the team loved the people they worked with but they did not love the work and I thought I knew why.
Imagine a job where, generally speaking, the only time your phone rings or you get an email is because something is broken and needs to be fixed. That even with the implementation of a new project, most of your time is spent answering the question: “Is it done yet?” The very basis of your work is rooted in negativity that will–over time–impact your view of the work that you do. No one may be trying to run you down, but run down you become.
After quantifying these feelings, I tested my theory with the team and they confirmed that, yes, it is difficult to constantly feel this way. The celebrations of success were few and far between (something that we fixed) and there were not many ways to measure success available (also something that we fixed). In my quest to further solve this problem, however, I began to rethink the entire concept of what it means to provide support (in this case, specifically, IT support).
What happened over the next several months was a transformation of the work that we did in the hospital, measured by our top marks in employee engagement and customer satisfaction (out of the 14 facilities in our division). How did we accomplish this? By putting the patient in the middle of the support we were providing–even when no one on my team was involved in direct patient care.
Gone were the days where we were fixing a broken printer. Now we were enabling a nurse to print out discharge instructions on a timely basis to help a patient get home quicker.
No longer did we install new equipment simply because a clinician asked for it. Now we installed new equipment because it provided additional tools to the clinician to provide higher quality care with better outcomes.
Furthermore, I wanted my team to ask themselves two questions each day (since refined): 1) “What can I do today to impact the care given to our patients?” (beginning of each day) and 2) “What have I done today to impact the care given to our patients?” (end of each day).
By putting the support our team did in terms of how it helps the patients we are called to serve, we now had a foundation for greater satisfaction in our work and happiness in our jobs. All by rethinking support and what it means. It is a process I am just now beginning to roll-out to another team I have the pleasure of leading. This time, however, I am even taking it a step further by implementing the concepts in coordination with the clinicians we support. I suspect that I will see similar (if not even better) results.