Leadership Surrounded By Pain

I had been there before. I was not looking forward to another painful experience. But the problem was that I was already in pain and looking for a way out. My doctor had already ordered the MRI and said there was no visible damage in any of the tissue of my shoulder. He said I should go to Physical Therapy. I knew that long-term the therapy would provide some relief. I had been there before to get help with some lower back pain. But, because I’m a wous, I didn’t want to go through the discipline of discomfort that would inevitably be prescribed.

But I wasn’t expecting to observe leadership principles at work at the therapy clinic. I don’t know why, since leadership, good or bad, is evident in almost all circumstances if you take time to observe and know what you’re looking for. Here are four leadership fundamentals I rediscovered.

1. Culture defines an organization. This is true whether it’s a family unit or a multi-national corporation. I recently watched a simulcast of Angela Ahrendts of Burberry as a part of the 2012 Chick-fil-a Leadercast. Retailer of the year in 2012, the century-old Burberry had been transformed by Ahrendts and her team into a culture of youth, incorporating modern music and social media into the everyday experience of the whole company, from the board room to the retail floors.

For Benchmark of East Ridge, Tennessee, the culture exudes openness, transparency, caring, fun and enjoyment along with the obvious technical expertise. My therapist, Dr. Keri Redfern (Doctor of Physical Therapy) obviously “knew her stuff”. But she was also extremely personal, not only relating to me in a way that convinced me she understood me, but being extremely open with me and her other patients about her life outside of work.

From the banter between colleagues, between patients and therapists, and even between patients it was obvious everyone enjoyed being in that place together, even in the midst of pain.

Culture emanates from the top and is only adopted when all the team is on board. A few years ago, I was going to this same site and the cultural environment was the same even then. However, I took another family member to another site for treatment and the culture was more matter-of-fact, more “professional”, less open. I think the difference in this case was the local manager of the clinic I attended, Keith Myers. Keith is a Physical Therapy Assistant with an MBA degree, yet you recognize in him all the qualities that define the culture of the clinic.

Between my first round of treatments and this last series, Keith had been promoted to the position of Regional Director. I haven’t, but I would be willing to risk some money on the assumption that all the clinics within his area of responsibility are now enjoying much the same culture as the one I attended.

2. Values make a difference. During both my extended encounters with Keith, it was obvious that one of their values was “family”. That happens to be one of my personal values, so that may be one reason why he and I “clicked”. He told me during a recent session that the whole company espouses that value, among others. He shared with me some of the many activities and policies the company put in place to ensure that everyone touched by the company (employees, vendors and patients) understands that Benchmark’s interest in the individual is only representative of the company’s broader concern for the welfare of their families.

The other implication is that the family value allows for the staff to function as a healthy “family” in the work environment.

Although no one told me, it seemed to me that “trust” is probably one of their values, as well. I’ll explain at least one implication in my next observation.

3. Competency is essential. No one wants to hire someone, especially in healthcare who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Knowing one’s own competencies is even more important. The therapists all have core training, but differ in level of expertise, specialties and experience. But in this environment of openness and trust, I perceived an unusual ability for co-workers to collaborate, give and ask advise, direct, coach and even admonish without disrupting the effectiveness of the overall process. And within Keith’s region, at least, I observed staff “floaters” being called on to fill in when a “regular” was absent and these “floaters” were accepted and the flow of the work and conversation continued as though the fill-in was a part of the “family” (I think I said something about that earlier). This kind of dynamic never happens without a healthy level of mutual trust.

4. Hope brings light into the darkness of discouragement and frustration. The staff in “my clinic” always seemed to approach things from a positive perspective. Even though they held me and their other patients accountable, it was always from a perspective of wanting us to gain the maximum benefit from their expertise. And when progress wasn’t seen as quickly as I would have liked, Keri and the other staff were always encouraging, willing to try other appropriate modalities and always upbeat about the prospects for the future.

Especially in the midst of any sort of pain, we all need hope extended by an encourager.

What about your environment? Whether at home, in school or on the job, ask yourself these four questions.

1. What is the culture of your environment and what can you do to influence it?

2. What are the values of your organization? What are your personal values? If the two do not aligned, I promise you will never be happy in that environment.

3. What are you currently doing to improve your competencies? With all that is available today in terms of information and training, there is no excuse not to be improving in the knowledge and skill with which we work with and relate to others.

4. What opportunities do you routinely take to give hope to someone who is discouraged or frustrated? I heard someone recently say they had asked a mentor how they knew someone needed encouragement. The answer was that if the individual was breathing, they needed encouragement, they needed hope.

Please conment below, and make it a great day…

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