The Two Prongs of Performance: People and Process

One of my most trusted and respected mentors once told me that effective leadership rests on two things: people and process. Over the years I have seen this proven to be true over and over. Optimal performance rests on the competency to connect with people, nurturing their best work while at the same time dissecting and improving–in most cases simplifying–the processes they work in everyday. Effectively managing people and process is key to optimal performance.

First: People

I start with people because people are the foundation of any good work. Primarily we are not resources or even roles but human beings who have a deeply intrinsic desire to connect to the work we do. The human potential for idea generation as well as the grit to push through and accomplish even the hardest of tasks becomes doable–even motivating and energizing–when people feel connected and valued for the work they do.

How do you connect people to their work?

You give them a vision and purpose. Yes, there are overall visions of organizations which are very important but every initiative also has a vision or a goal. Share this! Get it clear and simple so that everyone involved understands where the ship is headed. Revisit it, over and over, preferably every time the group gets together. Don’t skip this step! It’s the key that turns the car on–you won’t go anywhere if you neglect to share the specific vision and purpose of your initiative.

You give them a voice so they know their presence is valued. Create opportunities for everyone to share their ideas. I love using Post-it Notes in my meetings as a way to engage and give opportunity for every voice to be heard, especially the quieter ones. Have people write down their current barriers and ideas on Post-its and give everyone an opportunity to share their collected thoughts with the group. Sharing their ideas allows them to connect to the work being done while at the same time feel like a valued part of the team.

Appreciate the process as much as the end goal and accomplishments.

People don’t want to waste their time and need to feel valued for their effort in every step of the process, not just at the end.  Make it a part of your time together to revisit their wins–even the small ones–that have been accomplished.  Appreciate the effort, time, and even the failures of the group as opportunities to learn and keep propelling yourselves forward.

Second: Process

Everything is a process and can be improved. EVERYTHING.  I love using process flow charting to dissect complex and undistinguished processes occurring everyday in order to identify confusion, waste, and generate ideas for improvement.

When thinking of process, include:

Measurements and targets. How will you measure your success? What is your objective target goal and how will you track your milestones in getting there?

Opportunities and ideas for improvement. Conduct a process flow or simply ask the group what is working and what ideas they have to improve the process. Identify waste that is occurring and where there are opportunities for training, standard work, automation, and mistake proofing. Use an impact/effort matrix to prioritize the incentives the group wants to work on.  Form smaller teams to own and develop the ideas.

Project Management. From here it really is about managing the progress of the team for the action items they have been given responsibility for. Make the list of To Do’s transparent and hold them accountable to their due dates. Throughout the process, remind them of the vision and appreciate the milestones achieved along the way.

Know your end point and celebrate it.

Finally, when you have completed a process improvement initiative, celebrate it. This is a culmination of both people and process. I like to incorporate report outs at staff or leadership meetings to summarize, communicate and appreciate the work the team has done.  The audience get to understand  how the process improved as well as allowing the team to clearly see and articulate the issues they started with and what they did to resolve them. It brings us back to connecting the team to the work they do.  Report outs give the team an opportunity to reflect for a quick 10-15 minutes on the impact of the work they accomplished. This small reflection of their work has immeasurable effects on decreasing burn out and is well worth the effort to put together.

Optimal performance rests of the effective management of  people and process. In any initiative be aware of how you are addressing the needs of both. When both are effectively managed optimal performance is the natural outcome.







Success Depends on the Ability to Eliminate and Simplify

In today’s information-overload world the ability to eliminate the non essentials and simplify your vision is paramount to success. When we fail to regularly eliminate the non-essential ideas or processes that clog up lives we lose the ability to give the things that really matter–those things that will transform our lives and our businesses–the full attention and focus they deserve. Once you know what you want to focus on simplifying the plan and vision will accelerate your success.

First, eliminate.

Knowing what to eliminate is just as important as knowing what to focus on.  A diet is a great example. In order to be successful you need to understand what to eat (what to focus on) as well as what you will not eat (the non essentials you need to eliminate) in order to be successful. Letting the non essentials go in order to allow the truly important essentials lead you to success, whether that be certain food or ideas and processes, is crucial for success in a world constantly grabbing for our attention.

How do you know what is important enough to focus on?

Know your ultimate goal, whether it be something personal–“I want to spend 7 hours a week of quality time with my children” –or professional–“I want to develop [fill in the blank] at work.”  Then ask yourself: is this task helping me achieve my ultimate goal? If not, stop it immediately, delegate it, or figure out a way to eliminate it.

Take control of your time and your attention.

This is especially important in our 24/7 email and social media age. The ability to focus, develop an idea, and bring it to completion is becoming a lost art. Those who continue to master the skill of noise elimination will be much more successful than those who are fettered to the never-ending stream of news, information, email, and social media constantly fighting for our attention, our focus, and our time.

As much as you take on it is equally important is to know what to let go. I do this with my clothes, shoes, and household items as much as I do this with my work. I love to shop, but I also love to give things away! If I didn’t, my house would be overrun by stuff, clogging up my life and actually making the process of living more difficult.

By getting rid of things I don’t like, want, or use anymore I allow myself to life more purposefully and effectively. The same goes with work. The list of things to work on will never end. Knowing how to prioritize and eliminate those things that are not connected to your strategic plan and ultimate vision will allow you to pour all of your attention, energy and focus into those things that will move you closer to your goal while letting the non essentials–which are simply clogging up your path–go.

Secondly, simplify.

Sometimes the most challenging part of leading is identifying how to articulate your vision, plan, and measures of success in a succinct and simple way. The ability to do this is crucial to bringing people along on your journey. You won’t get very far alone. Simplifying allows other people to easily jump into your plan in whatever capacity or role they may play. With so much data and information available being able to clearly articulate your vision, plan and measure of success in a way anyone can understand is crucial.

In a word that is constantly grabbing for our attention the ability to recognize those things that serve us–those things that are carrying us towards the execution of our ultimate vision and plan–is crucial. Protect those things. You can do this by eliminating those tasks, items, or ideas that are not contributing to your ultimate vision.

Your success depends on your ability to eliminate the hundreds if not thousands of non essentials that compete for your attention everyday. Once you know what you need to focus on simply the hell out it. Make it so easy to follow and understand anyone will be able to jump in and play their role. Eliminate the non essentials, simplify your vision and your plan and watch as your success accelerates.


Public Speaking 101: Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned

Public speaking…the words themselves have the ability to send chills down people’s spines. We all know the fear of public speaking has been known to be the worst fear of all–even trumping the fear of death. We don’t want to fail and we definitely don’t want to fail publicly.  I remember my first presentation in high school, feeling like my heart was going to beat right out of my chest. When I looked down at my chest I could, in fact, literally see my heart pumping through my shirt I was so freaked out.

Over time I have found public speaking to be one of the most fulfilling and exhilarating experiences in my career. I seek out opportunities to do it.  Maybe it’s because I am a secret introvert and I love having time to prepare and share thoughtfully versus being put on the spot in the moment. Selfishly, I also love the fact I have been given permission to share–another introvert characteristic–and no one can interrupt me until I’ve been able to share my full and complete thoughts. Public speaking is the only forum where you have you audiences’  full undivided and captivated attention; the challenge is to keep it.

So how do you keep it? How do you become a speaker audiences actually want to listen to?

I have practical tips and tricks I’ve found have helped me prepare anytime I’m going to be in front of an audience. Not all presentations go off without a hitch but by utilizing these tips I’ve had mostly successful outcomes and a few that have completely kicked ass and have given me experiences in my career I will never forget. I’ve also figured out what not to do. As with everything ultimately you have to find what works for you. Try some of these out–see what fits!

It’s not about eliminating the “ums” so much as it is about connecting.

I know you’ve heard it before: to be a good public speaker you aren’t supposed to say “um” ever.  I find overly concentrating on eliminating filler words is distracting to the concentration you need to be putting on the message you want the audience to walk away with. Yes, if you have been given feedback you say “um” or any other filler word (mine tends to be continuously asking the audience “right?”) so much it’s distracting, then yes: be conscious of eliminating it from your presentation. But I’d encourage you to focus most of your attention on connecting with your audience rather than the specific words that may or may not come out of your mouth. You can do this in a couple of ways:

Set your intention.

First, ask yourself what you want to the audience to feel while and after you speak. Inspired? Moved to action? Surprised? Intrigued? This sets your intention, and prepares for the tone of your talk.

Visualize it.

Whenever I am set to give a talk I go to bed and wake up visualizing me doing well. I visualize myself in the act of accomplishing my intent whether that be leaving the audience feeling inspired, motivated, or moved to action. Most of the time it’s a combination of all three. Because I have accomplished this in the past I know how it feels when I am in the flow of a good talk and I tap into that feeling, literally watching myself in my brain repeat it. I visualize how I am talking and moving in the actual place I will be speaking, what the audience looks like as they look back at me and the feeling in the room. I create it before I actually do it.  This is not new news: champions from all walks of life use this technique to prepare to win. It’s incredibly powerful. See yourself being calm, or inspiring, or creating excitement–whatever you set as your intent. Visualize it to the point you feel it.


There are so many ways to do this: you really have to find what works for you. I’ve done everything from memorizing my entire talk–not recommended by most but it actually works pretty well for me–to totally winging it, which has never worked for me, ever. The middle ground is having a couple of key phrases I know I will use that will lead me into to speaking more conversationally. These key phases are especially important at the beginning, the transitions, and the end.

Know your beginning.

Introduce yourself. Always. It’s hard to connect with a stranger who didn’t take the time to tell you who they are and why they are in front of you, taking your time. It doesn’t have to be long but an introduction stating who you are and what you are going to be speaking on in most settings helps set the tone of your entire talk. Don’t skip it unless you do so strategically for some other purpose. From there, know how you are going to kick the whole thing off. That first phase after your introduction is when everyone in the audience is asking: am I going to listen to this person? Engage them immediately. You can do this by making eye contact, smiling, asking a question, or speaking loudly or softly, depending on your intent. I love leading with a question.

Know your transitions.

How do you plan to move from one topic to the next? I’ve found memorizing my transition sentences helps, especially if I get lost. If I know I need to get to my second transition and I’ve memorized how I was going to lead into it, even if I’ve wandered a bit in the previous section I have an anchor to pull me back, keeping us all from getting completely lost. I’ve been in speeches where I go off ad hoc and have completely lost where I was supposed to go next.  Memorize your transitions. They are anchors to pull you back.

Know your end.

Finish well. Know how you will wrap it up, and again, what you want them to walk away with. Even if the talk is rocky if you have a solid finish it’s the last thing the audience will remember. Memorize the last couple of sentences you want to say to wrap it up. Finish strong.

Right before you go onstage, take control of your mind and body through your breath. 

The best breathing technique I have found is this: inhale for five seconds, hold for two, and exhale for eight. Try it; it feels awesome! Do this four times, concentrating only on the feeling you want your audience to walk away with–your intent. Let all other thoughts go. I find it useful to focus on certain words, depending on the message I am about to convey. Sometimes I simply focus on the words “focus” and “intent”. This keeps my mind from wandering and fears from having the opportunity to set in. Purposefully focusing on a word or two helps you control your mind and breathing helps you control any unwanted physical responses, like when I was in high school and my heart wanted to jump out of my chest. All I could think of in that moment was how badly I wanted it to be over–my mind and my body were screaming, I hate this!!!  I’m sure my talk was less than valuable.

It’s not about you, it’s about what the audience needs.

Lastly, I think one of the reasons getting up in front of people can be so difficult is that we feel the energy of all of those people being thrown onto little ‘ole us in the front of the room. Throw that energy back. By that I mean it’s not about you. You are up there to share information: share it! Give the audience something of value. Throw their energy back onto them by giving them what they want: something of value to walk away with. It’s not about you, it’s about what the audience needs. Think of yourself as serving them versus impressing them and much of the dread will disappear.

I want to wrap up by saying that speaking publicly is a privilege and a gift. Use it wisely! Every opportunity you have to speak publicly is a chance to influence a large group of people with your unique thoughts. Grab the opportunity to share your thoughts in a way that connects with others and accomplishes your intent.



Givers Make the World Go Round

I was introduced to Adam Grant (not in person, just though his amazing book, Give and Take:Why Helping Others Drives Our Success) a year or so ago in an MBA class. His book captivated me, showing through research and real life examples many intuitive things I have  felt but had no idea how to put into words.  Not only does he articulate these deep seeded intuitions, he always backs it up with research and data.

His research is work spreading.  Check it out!



Empathy Transforms…Us.

I am researching topics to include in a class I am developing entitled “Keeping Healthcare Human”.  I was inspired to create this class because this is what I see as the biggest deficit in healthcare today: the inability for caregivers to engage with those they care for in a compassionate and humane way.

There are many reasons this happens. I would say if I had to pinpoint one main reason it would be this: we are overwhelmed. And although I haven’t done any scientific research on it, my intuition drives me to suspect that when we are overwhelmed, our brain seeks to simply and compartmentalize, reducing humans to more manageable objects to be dealt with rather than fellow human beings to be entered into relationship with.

My research led me to empathy…again. And this time I found this awesome TEDx talk by Paul Parkin. His talk took me deeper into empathy and how it works than I have ever thought of it before. There were a couple of things that were truly insightful about his talk, but the most eye-opening  for me was this: ultimately, empathy changes us.

He says, “Empathy forges communication that is inquisitive, that is non judgmental, that is validating and compassionate. And when we start to communicate in that way, the primary thing that it does is it changes us. It softens us. We see people in our lives differently. We re-write the narratives that we tell ourselves about others in the kindest ways possible.”

Oh how this is needed in healthcare today!

Empathy transforms not only the situation for the person receiving empathy, it also has the power to transform the giver of empathy. Hello, light bulb!!!

Listen, and be changed.




Patient and Family Advisory Councils: What to Look for When Recruiting Members

Patient and Family Advisory Councils, otherwise known as a “PFAC”, are an ideal way to foster partnerships and solution based dialogue between the healthcare team and the community. As part of my series on Patient and Family Advisory Councils, I wanted to talk about ideal traits to look for when recruiting community members to be a part of your PFAC.

There are six different attributes that are key when looking to see if someone is a good candidate to be a part of your PFAC:

  • Have they had previous healthcare experience?

It seems like stating the obvious, but you want to make sure whoever you are recruiting has had relatively significant personal healthcare experience. They may have been a close family member, or in some cases a close friend, of someone who has had experiences in healthcare. They will need this point of reference to draw from in order to promote meaningful dialogue as well as cultivate ideas for improvement.

  • Are they able to see outside of their own experience for the greater good?

Some community members may not be at a point where they can see past their own experiences in order to see the bigger picture and how others are affected in similar or different  ways. It’s important that you recruit members who can draw on their own experiences but also see how their experiences fit into a much bigger picture.

  • Are they able to look at issues beyond what they may have experienced personally? 

Members who can draw on their own personal experience while at the same time are interested and passionate about improving many different aspects of healthcare–whether they have personally experienced them or not–are the people you will want to recruit. If they only are interested in fixing “their” problem, and are not willing and able to look at other issues as well, you’ll want to pass.

  • Do they have a broad reach and influence in the community?

This is a wonderful opportunity to build a link between your organization and the community. By recruiting members who are actively involved in the community in other aspects, they will be able to bring a greater knowledge of issues as well as represent and speak to dialogue and improvements coming out of the PFAC. Not everyone has to be a prominent community member, but having those that are dispersed on your PFAC is a huge bonus to foster a relationship with the community.

  • Can they commit?

From the beginning, you’ll want the time commitment to be explicitly discussed and agreed upon. Whether your PFAC meets monthly or quarterly, whether the term is 1 or 3 years, you’ll want your members to know the commitment and be willing to dedicate the time in order to be a valued member on the council.

  • Are they comfortable sharing their honest thoughts and opinions in a group setting with a wide variety of people?

PFACs will consist of a wide range of individuals with broad background and experience levels. Members will need to be comfortable sharing their insights and thoughts in a productive and solution oriented way to a group including other members, doctors, nurses, administration, and others. You’ll want to look for people who have the skills to be able to communicate effectively in a group setting.


Patient and Family Advisory Councils: Increasing Community Engagement to Improve Care

Patient and Family Advisory Councils are rapidly becoming a standard across hospitals nation wide. The patient’s voice is now stronger than ever due to the fact  re-reimbursement and loyalty has become more and more tied to their personal experience within the healthcare system.  Patient and family advisory councils (PFAC) are one way hospitals are reaching out to partner with the people they serve in order to improve.

A patient and family advisory council provides a forum for patients and families to partner with members of the healthcare team in order to offer insight and perspective on what it takes to create an exceptional patient experience. Through the council, patients and families are given the opportunity to serve on other hospital committees, eventually becoming completely integrated into the fabric of the organization.

Patients and families who are a part of a PFAC ensure that the consumer perspective and point of view is heard and valued alongside clinicians’ and administrators’. They work with the entire healthcare team to bring to light the nuances of what creates an exceptional experience.

There are many benefits to incorporating a PFAC into your organization:

  • Increased listening, understanding and cooperation between the community and the healthcare team.
  • Efficient planning of new projects to ensure consumer needs and priorities are met from the start.
  • A forum for cost-effective and innovative solutions to challenges.
  • A forum to test ideas before implementation.
  • A link between the organization and the community it serves.
  • Promotes respectful and effective partnerships between patients, families, and the healthcare team.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be diving in to what it takes to begin a patient and family advisory council, explore more of the benefits, talk about the barriers as well as who are good candidates for membership. We’ll also discuss readiness and resources, both financial and staffing, that you’ll need in order to get started. Stay tuned!