The need to treat people well seems fundamental, yet too many individuals in leadership positions don't seem to get it.
For instance, when I called the chief executive officer of a major healthcare company recently, I was greeted by the person's administrative assistant. I've talked to her before, and usually she is very upbeat; but this time the tone of her voice indicated she was not happy. I asked if she was all right, and her response made it clear she was not. She said it had to do with the way she was
being treated by her boss and his colleagues.
Frankly, I don't like to get into discussions like this because I feel as if I'm invading someone's privacy. And since I don't work for that organization, I thought it really was none of my business. However, she obviously wanted to talk about the situation. After we chatted for a few minutes, she thanked me for listening and said she felt much better. I too felt better for giving her some relief.
In recalling this incident, I'm reminded of the power of listening. As leaders, we don't do enough of it, perhaps because we are too caught up in day-to-day activities to pay attention to our colleagues' needs.
Researchers have extensively studied productivity, but it's common sense to know that individuals who are treated well are much more productive than those who are managed with indifference.
Many executives understand this, but hordes of others are either too lazy or don't think it's necessary to do so. They think paying an employee is all they have to do, but that's not true by a long shot. People need to feel someone cares about them and their well-being. They want to be treated with dignity and respect.
Listening is one of the most powerful management tools any of us has at our disposal. It's important whether we are dealing with our colleagues, patients or customers.
But listening with one's ears is only part of the picture. "Hearing" people's body language also can pay rich dividends. You'll be able to tell if they are getting your message or not, and if they in turn respect you. One of the best books on the subject is Body Language by Julius Fast. It is a must-read for anyone in an executive position.
For physicians, the concept of listening should be a no-brainer. By and large, clinicians are the best listeners in the world; they have to be if they are going to serve the needs of their patients. The good ones already know how important it is to treat their patients with dignity and respect.
So in many ways physician executives have an advantage over other managers: They know how to listen, and they recognize the benefits of treating people well.
People are the most important commodity in any organization, and they need to feel good about themselves and their company. You don't have to be a genius to figure this out.
A smile helps too, Charles S. Lauer Publisher