the ceo magazine, leadership

New excuses for inferior performance crop up just as fast as one can whack them down—reminiscent of Whack-a-Mole, a game that involved forcing individual plastic moles back into their holes by hitting them directly on the head with a mallet. This week I encountered a new breed of mole related to a hospital’s low patient satisfaction scores.

This hospital’s objective should be clear: Change the things that will raise scores in critical areas, positioning the hospital to receive full reimbursement. But decision-makers have allowed themselves to be distracted. It seems some of the nurses who oversee the essential areas for improvement have high shame scores.

That’s right. Apparently ten of the fourteen nurse managers involved have too much shame. Human Resources knows this because they hired a non-psychologist consultant to administer an assessment that evaluates the extent to which shame becomes magnified and internalized—leading the victim to feelings of inferiority, worthlessness, inadequacy, and the heartbreak of psoriasis. Once victims understand the complicated emotional problems that cause them to underperform, they can embrace the proven methods of transformational leadership, or “What’s Happening Now in Leadership.” Success hasn’t happened in the four years they have attempted this approach, but administrators at this hospital remain optimistic.

Remember, their goal is to recover dollars through reimbursement—both now and when the future brings change. But someone convinced them that they had to dig for causes of inappropriate behaviors and then empathically attempt to transform the shameful. This misguided approach costs this hospital millions of dollars a year, but they don’t show signs of abandoning it.

Do you really care why people don’t perform in your organization? Obviously, if they don’t have the training or resources to do their jobs, someone needs to step in. But when they have clear goals for success and the requisite resources, you should expect results, not excuses. If they continue to underperform, and no one holds them accountable, might the problem lie elsewhere?

Now leaders at this hospital have decided they really need to concentrate on developing transactional leaders into transformational leaders. What? Leaders that buy the “flavor of the month” approach to leadership doom themselves and their organizations to repeated failure.

Next week an author or theorist will devise yet another name for leadership. Haven’t we had enough of silly little leadership songs? The name you give effective leadership doesn’t matter. Results do.

When leaders allow those in their chain of command to disregard strategic objectives and excuse their lapses with “I’m too ashamed, and this criticism is making things worse,” you really have cooked up a recipe for failure. They should be ashamed of themselves.




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