Recently we had Toby Lesser on-site for a leadership training. Toby did a great presentation on communication and difficult conversations. Yesterday in the weekly Senior Leadership meeting, Jennifer Wernsman showed courage, determination, and resiliency in leading the team in an exercise in how we are doing with what Toby presented on…communication, perception, and difficult conversations.
In order to spend the right amount of time on each item, this will be a multi-part blog. This may be a tough blog for some to read as I am going to be real and transparent. This is also going to be enlightening to some..it will anger others…and here we are being vulnerable…
The Senior Leadership team has bi-annual team building meetings, and we set team expectations in September of 2017. These expectations are Communication, Positive Attitudes, Pause to Celebrate, Support, Ownership, Role Models, Open-Mindedness, Speed in Decision Making, and Educate. These expectations are what we hold ourselves to as leaders.
We asked ourselves as a team, how are we doing? Here is what we said:
- Still growing/gelling as a team
- We have peaks and valleys in how we perform, and what occurs in the organization
- We are still acclimating to our positions and expectations
- Challenging times ahead
- We are doing good things
- We are loyal to one another, hold each other accountable, lift each other up, but there is always room to improve
- We need more collaboration/openness, but it has improved over the past year
Toby discussed perceptions, and how perceptions are reality. One of the struggles of any leader is perceptions around their actions. Whether they are true or false “perception is reality“. We discussed the importance of perceptions, even if they are wrong, rather than wasting time “blaming, complaining, gossiping or commiserating with those that do”. We will take action to help show the misperception and also take ownership and fix the things that are accurate or inaccurate.
Here are the common perceptions that we hear:
- Leadership doesn’t communicate
- Leadership is never in the office and/or never leaves their office
- Leadership does not walk the walk. They expect us to follow rules, but do not follow rules themselves e.g.: Pickle Pledge, Extracurricular Activities, Mandatory Activities
- Leadership says we should celebrate more often, then takes away our rights to have department-only celebrations and doesn’t allow us to recognize our accomplishments
The perception I will focus on today is communication. This will sound a tad defensive, but one of my biggest pet peeves is speaking in absolutes. Only the Sith (any Star Wars fans out there?) can speak in absolutes. “Leadership NEVER communicates”. “Leadership NEVER follows the rules and ALWAYS parks in the wrong spot”. Toby shared that 90% of miscommunication results from delivery of the message: tone, body language, wording etc. Most problems we experience in our organization, and any human interaction, is related to miscommunication. This means that awareness of delivery in all of our messages can solve nearly all our communication problems!
What is the Senior Leadership Team doing currently to communicate?
- All of us have a weekly 1:1 meeting with our managers, or have an open door policy
- Morning pickle pledge updates
- Provider forums
- Quarterly employee forums
- Med staff meetings
- Monthly manager meetings
- CEO rounding with every employee
- Weekly senior leadership meetings
- Daily leadership huddles
- PR (Elizabeth) newsletters, all employee emails, printed communications
- Majority of managers get leadership meeting tidbits from senior leaders
- Department managers present at senior leadership huddle on rotation
- Department managers present at the monthly board meeting on rotation
- Employee engagement survey
- Provider engagement survey
- Informational TV in clinic waiting room
- Bulletin board in the nursing area
- Schedule bulletin board in Administration
- Finalizing organizational communication plan (stay tuned for more information soon!)
This is a pretty extensive list. Some of the themes I hear back from staff is “my manager does not tell us these things”, “I don’t check my email”, “I had 50 emails, and didn’t want to read them all so I deleted them all”, and “I don’t have time to read email”. Granted, email is not a perfect communication avenue for everyone, as some groups prefer one-on-one, printed, or other methods. Some of the people who say they don’t have time to read email are known to ‘like’ or make Facebook posts during business hours. Policy 1120.2 Electronic Mail Systems is one that everyone has acknowledged, states in procedure number 3 that “E-mail should be checked daily”, making it a part of everyone’s job description. E-mail etiquette will be a future post…
One thing that senior leadership discussed was that sometimes it is the “what’s” that is not communicated rather than the “how’s”. As Toby mentioned, communication is a two-way street and I would like to take the opportunity to put this back on everyone; what do you need to hear from us?
With all that being said, here is our plan to tighten up communications:
- Julianne and Megan send out tidbits from the senior leadership meeting to their areas. We plan on distributing these tidbits to all managers and possibly the entire organization. These may be emailed or printed, but this is still under construction.
- Utilize the upcoming culture committee to review the communication plan and revisit other plans for communication improvement.
- Promote more two-way communication and become more approachable for more feedback.
- Utilize all of the above to tailor messages.
- Promote existing email policy.
- Promote the expectation of trickle-down communication from managers to frontline rock stars.
- Assign executive sponsor to each committee to be responsible for two-way communication between leadership and their committee(s).
- Encourage more participation in All Employee Forums. Currently, only 1/3 of staff attend these and a lot of important information is shared during these events. Looking at potentially offering more forum options at different times. We will be expanding agenda to allow all leadership to present info from their areas.
- Install an informational TV in the cafeteria for a “Senior Leadership Channel” that will be more tailored to MMH Family Members. This may include dashboards we track, schedules, departmental updates, etc.
- Email/contact me with any other constructive feedback. If you have a problem to share, bring a solution!
My door is always open for you!
I will put our closing discussion points at the end of each blog in this series:
- Fair or not, we are held to a higher standard as the leadership of MMH.
- We need to be cognizant of how our actions are perceived.
- We can’t please everyone all of the time.
- We will improve our “leadership by example”.