You Are Powerful. How The Housekeeper Saved a Life (and made mine better) at One of America's Best Hospitals.
An old family friend just read this post and reminded me how my mother (her broker and a realtor for 30 years) used to always ask the babysitters, housekeepers, hardware store clerk and landscapers for referrals because she swore they knew about people moving before anyone else. She also swore they knew everything about her competition. I hope this finds you well and appreciating every connection you make daily.
She meekly walked into the room with her mop and blue rubber gloves. "Can I clean your room?" she almost said at a whisper. Meanwhile, my mother laid in the hospital bed curled in pain and screaming for help.
She picked the wrong room today, I thought.
I was there, helplessly trying to help my mother forget about her pain while waiting for the nurse to get the doctor, again. Suffering from slight dementia, the pain made Mom more incoherent and made diagnosing her similar to diagnosing an infant.
I was shaken. I knew there was something else wrong as well, but I couldn't figure it out. The nurse had been coming in all day saying,
"I'm sorry Mimi, but we can't give you any more pain medication until ____ o'clock."
As I made small talk about the devastation in Puerto Rico, the young housekeeper quietly shared some details about what her own family was experiencing being there. She described their inability to get medicine, water, the escalation of violence... More importantly, she shared her helplessness. That very same helplessness I was feeling at that very moment.
In her wisdom, she reminded me that we couldn't make my mother or her family better. We needed to rely on other people and had to trust that they would deliver. "All we can do is make sure we're communicating what they need to the right people," she said.
This 20-year-old angel brought me incredible peace as my heart was breaking into a thousand pieces. I wonder if she knew that?
Upon leaving she quietly said, "You know, your mom's pain is different than it was yesterday. Her hand's in a different place."
At this point, my mother had been in the hospital for 2 weeks. Her condition was the source of great pain and because of her MS, was unable to pinpoint pain. She noticed something no one else did.
This young woman had been listening. She had been paying attention to the details. She had been there every day cleaning my mother's room, getting to know my mother, hearing her cry with pain. She knew that her pain was lower and not higher, as my mother was claiming.
This young woman gave me the confidence to not take pain medication as the answer and instead, ask better questions. Instead of listening, I looked too. Within minutes we identified the problem with the PA, an intern came and corrected the problem, and after 10 long hours of agony, the pain was wiped away in minutes.
In years of leading teams, I've always challenged my teams to listen to the entire team. Sometimes we can allow our degrees, our experience, and even our personal biases to ignore important information. Worse yet, sometimes we allow these same things to intimidate others from having the courage to step forward and challenge us.
If you run a $100M store, the chances of the cart attendant having a better feel for your customer concerns is guaranteed. You need to listen and empower him.
If you lead a $50M tech company, the kid in the corner playing your game - or not playing yours, but playing others - might be your best source of knowledge.
Sometimes, as with me and Mom's nurse, we get too close to a situation.
As a leader, it's important to hear, to empower and to celebrate those voices. Give them time to be heard, let them know and feel as though they are just as important as every member of your team.
I once heard an employee of Zig Ziglar say, "The greatest thing about Zig was that he made every single employee feel that he couldn't run his business without you - and he believed it."
I challenge you to pull out a roster, schedule, or time sheets. It doesn't matter if you're a baseball coach or a brain surgeon. Think about your life without them. What if the orderly wasn't there to change the sheets and help transport patients. Who would do it? What would happen to the work center of the person who filled in? And then what? Eventually, you would not be able to do your job as effectively.
Look at every single name on that list and ask yourself if you've made them feel that they are the most important person in your organization. Have you told them why their job is important? Go do it.
It will change the way you lead, your results, and your life.