Check the Temperature, Your Pulse, and Your Team
As far as painful memories are concerned, most of the extremely difficult decisions we, as leaders, had to make after the Fall of 2008 will remain, indelibly, with us forever.
The world was changing, and we had to change in order to stay afloat.
Resources were limited everywhere we turned. Time was tight, and we were stretched thin. And for those of us who prevailed, there are lessons. We learned much about our surroundings, about ourselves, and about our teams. While most of us have emerged smaller, we have come through it all stronger, with a renewed understanding of who we are and what is possible.
We have learned that while we need to adapt to the changing tides, our principles remain steadfast.
And now, with the wind blowing ever so softly at our backs, we sense that we can finally breathe a sigh of relief. At least, we can breathe a bit easier. As we feel the breeze, and, for a fleeting moment, reflect on what we’ve all been through, let’s consider the wall. The wall we’ve all had our backs against. What happens as we start to move away from that wall? How do we feel? Uncomfortable? Finally released? Unsure? Hesitant? Ready for the next challenge?
“When we’re challenged, we end up learning about ourselves—about our natural strengths and limitations.”
As we start to move away from the wall we’ve had our backs against, the question looms: Where are we going? Which direction do we take? As we sense a glimmer of hope, there is that strange feeling in the back of our heads: When the wall was against our backs, at least we knew where we were.
So where do we go from here?
We are getting mixed signals, daily, from the forecasters. That light at the end of the tunnel seems bright. Yet way too many are still unemployed.
So where do we stand? How do we take what we have learned and apply it moving forward?
When we’re challenged, we end up learning about ourselves – about our natural strengths and limitations.
We’ve certainly learned to work harder, hopefully smarter. And we’ve learned to worry less about what we don’t have and focus more on how to maximize what we’ve got.
From there, our true leadership emerges.
The first thing we, as leaders, have to do is to understand ourselves—and equally to understand how we connect with those around us.
Self-awareness is the stepping stone to successful leadership. Can we honestly evaluate what sets us apart? And what might be holding us back?
Do we have the confidence to surround ourselves with others who are far better than us in certain areas?
Do we know when to rely upon ourselves? And when we need insights from others? Are we able to create an environment where collaboration, honesty, and open communication fill the airwaves?
As leaders, we don’t need to have all the answers ourselves. But we do need to recognize them when we hear the right answers. And know when to ask the right questions. Can we create an environment where the best ideas can be heard freely?
As leaders, we need to foster an environment of genuine openness in which ideas, opinions, observations, and disagreements are encouraged. It is up to us to set that tone. And to stay in touch with top performers inside and outside our organization. To listen to their take on what is happening and their forecast for what is around the corner.
How do they feel things are going? What are they confident about? And what are they concerned about?
As leaders, we have to have our antenna up at all times—to encourage conversation and debate. And, most importantly, to be able to distinguish between random background noises and those significant messages, however faint, that need our attention.
To check the temperature, we need to be aware of our own pulse.
Are we encouraging those around us to step up and speak their minds? Or are we looking for people to agree with us? Are we trying to uncover the truth? Or are we more interested in having the final word?
Only by trusting ourselves can we trust others. And that’s when others will find trust in us.
Skip Cimino, the Chief Executive Officer of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, has learned this by leading in business and government, before coming to health care. “Clearly, the issue of having to do more with less is paramount for all hospital administrators in the country,” Cimino says. “The way I look at this is not from a command and control perspective. Instead, we have invited input from all of our employees, from every level of the organization, to determine how we can reduce our resources while still improving the delivery of services that we need to effectively run a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year organization.”