The views and opinions expressed are those of the author personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
What Do You Stand For?
I just couldn’t believe it. There was no way you could convince me when I was 18 that I would live to 21. My lifestyle was so self destructive that I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I was riddled with addictive behaviors. Self-pity absorbed my every thought, and future plans included my funeral and not much more. I literally was standing on what I thought was the truth that I would not see 21.
It wasn’t until I started to share this with a few people that an orchestration of events happened. I was led into a recovery program that launched me into a new life. I stand on something much different now, a different set of truths that I base my life upon.
Things change and we as people change. Thought processes come and go. Belief systems come and go. You might stand for something one day, receive some different or additional information and your mind changes, now you stand for something else.
There is a saying that bears some thought: if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. There has to be something, however, that we can stand on, something that will not change with new information. I would like to offer a change to that saying because I believe that if you do not stand ON something, you will fall for anything.
The core values for my life are much different today than when I was 18. I was falling over everything, grasping for anything that could give me hope. I didn’t realize I was looking in all the wrong places until I became beat up enough to ask for help. As I found the help I needed, there began to arise in me a foundation for life resulting in a set of core values for my life.
As I matured, the core values emerged definable. Today they are Honesty, Integrity, Unity, and Transparency.
As a leadership team at work, we have incorporated these core values at a departmental level and try to emulate them for our staff. We hold staff accountable to these and ask them to hold us accountable to them as well. They are more than ground rules for behavior, they are a platform that we all can stand on. While there is hierarchy in the department from an org chart perspective, these core values transcend the org chart. In other words, no one should operate and behave outside of the core values.
Core values are considered before everything we do: decision making, budgeting, staff meetings, difficult conversations, and status reports. Most often they are not considered verbally, it is more instinctual than anything else, regardless, those values are present. Core values alone do not lead to a Utopian environment where everyone is whistling, but they do allow us to move about our day with confidence that we are doing our best and making the best decisions that we can.
Recent events caused me to look at these values as people questioned my decisions. I am confident in my decisions, but I have to admit that I do not always have all of the information. It is impossible to be a decision maker and always have all of the information – that would be way too easy.
When someone questions a decision, I look at it and see if there is additional information. Perhaps there is a correction either to an assumption I made or to information that was provided. One thing I do not have to do is cover my tracks or try to hide my motives. Core values give me an unshakable foundation to stand on. That’s right, an unshakable foundation. These values do not change based upon any individual circumstance.
Do I adhere to them all the time? No. That is why I have people I trust in my life who have permission to point this out to me and help me humbly apologize and get back on track. They are not designed for a perfect life — they are designed to keep me on a specific path.
Do you have a set of core values that you can verbalize off the top of your head? The truth is that if we don’t know what our core values are, that doesn’t mean we do not have them. We are not even the best person to verbalize our core values. Others around us are better at it because they are more aware of our actions than we are.
Ask my wife what my core values are. Ask the members of my leadership team, those who work with me day in and day out, what my core values are. Core values are more than just words. They are the way you live, act, play, work, shop, or do anything in life. Core values are behind everything you say and do.
What does this have to do with healthcare? Why do I continue to harp on principles when we have so many other things to be talking about?
I say it again — if we do not stand for something, we will fall for anything. During sweeping change, stability is important. Great focus is needed to guide us through this period of healthcare reform. Define your core values. If you are not currently living by them, ask some trusting people around you to help. You will be surprised at the response you get.
If you have them defined, use people around you to help keep you accountable to them and encourage others to do the same These times are critical and the next generation is depending on us to get this right.
Bill Rieger is chief information officer at Flagler Hospital of St. Augustine, FL.