An essential part of leadership is managing the tension between two competing forces.
Right here, regular readers are pausing, wondering if they wandered into the wrong email. That opening sounds like something one of those serious, sophisticated blog writers would say. What? No discussion about the migratory habits of feral pigs or some random riff on an obscure 16th century madman or a 1970’s movie?
You are in the right place. It’s me. I am just overdue for my wit and mirth booster shot. Production of my med got disrupted by a bunch of Canadian truckers and is pushed out a week or so.
We do occasionally have serious thoughts, even at the beginning of our blog, and that point is a real one. My wise friend Jay describes it as ‘living with a polarity,’ finding that sweet spot between the two ideas pulling in different directions. Being old and having a beard and saying ‘polarity’ makes him like Yoda, only not quite as green.
Leaders have one of these tugging hard at us right now.
On one side, we know the staffing challenges we face. Finding humans – competent and willing to work – is harder than finding a cheap used car.
For the other side, we need a little truth telling…customer service, in many places, has gone to hell in a handbasket.
In all fairness, the first issue has contributed mightily to the second, especially in healthcare and other industries where front line workers did not have the luxury (like me) of dealing with the world via video – and a mute button – for the past two years. These people are fried and stretched and tired. And often, more than a little irritated and cranky. I get it and am sympathetic.
But the hospitality and customer service side of healthcare, especially when dealing with patients whose health issues have them stressed in their own right, is central to what we do. Unfortunately, there are too many stories where the mark was missed badly. I’ll spare skewering a local health system and won’t tell of a recent personal experience with them. It was bad.
This is one of those polarity tensions for physician practice leaders right now – acknowledging the pressure facing a short-staffed team and giving them some grace, while at the same time holding expectations to the proper standard. Patients need us to walk this back into balance.
No magic answers here, but it helps to acknowledge the reality of this tension with your team, call it ‘living with the polarity’ and you will sound oh-so-wise. Talk about it directly and work to manage it together.
Editorial Note: We wrote on January 10 about the latest single-payer plan in California. It died in committee without a vote. Someone actually thought about how defending a massive tax increase on the voting trail would sound and decided being on the record supporting that was a bad idea. Some sanity in Sacramento.
Keep fighting the good fight.