The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
One thing that differentiates top performers from peers is neither skill nor experience — it’s talent. One key talent is compassion. Top performers connect their skills with compassion. They link their hearts to their brains. Connection is the difference maker.
As a leader, how do I help make that connection for my team? How do I create an environment where we can cultivate compassion? How do I help them view their job as more than a paycheck, but as a contribution to a patient’s life?
A motivational speech might spike emotions for a day or two, but I need something with a longer half-life. I need an approach that transcends mental understanding, a connection so strong that synapses will rewire and link the brain to the heart and infect the soul. Forever.
The single most effective method I have leveraged is what I term Connections. I have employed Connections for eight years, at two different organizations. The remarkable happens when you remove the physical barriers between clinicians and those who support them.
A programmer’s heart changes when he sees the impact of his code on a patient. When a service desk agent sees the face of the physician she’d helped navigate through the electronic health record, her heart expands. Sympathy awakens in the data center engineer when he learns from a nurse that patient outcomes improve because of the technology delivered with zero downtime. And an administrative assistant understands the urgency of communication when she personally witnesses the life and death stress.
Our brains tap into our hearts. Compassion-infused work follows.
- The clinicians who are shadowed learn more about technology. They learn that we care and that they have this incredible support structure surrounding them. This aspect is almost as beneficial as the Connections themselves.
- Relationships develop and then are cultivated, creating a family-oriented culture.
- Respect from operational leaders increases because they see that you care enough to take such action.
- While not scientifically validated, there appears to be an overall correlation between organizational outcomes and Connections.
- As Connections form, employee engagement rises, creating and nurturing new talents.
Employee Transformation Testimonies
- “I must admit, I hated this idea but did it because I had to. I have worked here for 20 years and for the first time I realized we have patients. Of course I knew what we did as a hospital but really, this was incredibly impacting and I will never be the same.” (Programmer)
- “I am not the same today as yesterday.” (Network Engineer)
- “I volunteered to observe in the OB unit. With clinician and patient consent, I witnessed the birth of twin babies. I never realized all the behind the scenes coordination required and it opened my eyes to a whole new world.” (Admin Assistant)
- “I never saw myself as part of the patient care process until now.” (Field Support)
- “My life is changed. I always wanted to be care giver but didn’t like blood so chose a different path in technology. Now I tell people I am both.” (Application Analyst)
- “I run marathons. I was more exhausted shadowing a nurse today. I never knew.” (Project Manager)
- “In one day I witnessed the joy of healing and the pain of death. I now see how critical IT is and why we need to be the best that we can be to support the front lines.” (Business Analyst)
- “I am a nurse and did not see why I had to take part in Connections. After today, it was like I was hit by a ton of bricks! Wake up call! Thank you, thank you, thank you.” (Application Analyst)
- “The experience is another reminder that the bigger picture of our health system, being a body of entities, departments and individuals, come together for the patients to have one more beat of life.” (Data Center Operator)
- “The experience was one that I am very thankful to have participated in and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.” (Application Manager)
- “Patient care was the core focus of every area. It was really great to see the patients and what we really work for. Connections reminds us of what is truly important and why we do what we do (Security Analyst)
- “There is a lot of new technology on the floor and it’s cool to see how all the parts fit together to make the whole. People working with people and technology involved to make health care better.” (Business Analyst)
- “This is my second Connections, and every time I get a much more vivid idea of how my contributions and duties make a difference and reaffirms the promise to our community and the people we serve.” (Data Center Operator)
- “Clinicians are the reason we all have jobs, and I thank them for all of their hard work.” (Business Applications Manager)
- “It was very educational for me to see what the nurses and physicians do and how they use technology in their environment. It’s always a good thing for people working in technology to understand the business they support. Glad I had the opportunity. (Data Center Manager)
- “I have worked at 4 different health care organizations in 3 different states and this is the first time I have seen a program like this. I am proud to work here.” (Application Analyst)
- “Given what I saw I can’t begin to imagine how stressful their work must be. We need to do everything we possibly can to make it less so.” (Vice President)
I love a great speech and giving out raises and bonuses. But evidence suggests these have fleeting influence on performance and certainly do not develop compassion. In fact, some studies indicate the enthusiasm over a raise lasts two weeks.
I speculate this is because money only engages the brain. Conversely, transforming a person’s way of thinking and view of themselves results in long-term effects and a new person. Even the hardest of hearts and the most gifted intellectual will begin to view things differently. Once they’ve Connected.
***Leave a comment and I will send you a simple 10-step process for successfully setting up your own Connections program at your organization.
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.