Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop the Rumination

Kara Redoutey, MBA

Introduction

Over the next several weeks we will be revisiting the series entitled Mistakes New Leaders Make. Even after a few years in leadership, I’ve found that I still have many opportunities for improvement and still make plenty of mistakes. How can that be? After some growth and experience as a leader, shouldn’t I be well on my way to becoming an expert? The answer is no. It turns out, it’s not a simple feat. Leadership takes time – time for continued growth and learning, time to experience more, time to observe, ponder, improve, and question. We will begin exploring growth opportunities for new leaders, common mistakes we make, and how to move on from bumps in the road to successful leadership.

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Before we jump into the barriers to stopping rumination, we should answer the following question: what exactly is rumination? Psychology Today (2010) states that “basically rumination means that you continuously think about the various aspects of situations that are upsetting.” Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? We are supposed to learn from our mistakes and reflect on our opportunities. Taking some time to figure out how we could have done something better is a very good thing, but some of us take it a little too far. We spend far too long over analyzing our mistakes, the could have, should have, would have parts. We are too self critical and it creates a paralyzing response to the mistake we made. We want to be the best. We want to be perfect. Mistakes cause us discomfort and instead of using that discomfort to produce results and find solutions, we allow it to propel us into a lengthy self-dwelling cycle that actually ends up with the opposite of what we are trying to achieve, which is growth and leadership learning AND results.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Rumination is unhealthy. It doesn’t produce results. It doesn’t allow us to productively reflect and grow on our leadership journey. It wastes time and ultimately, it ruins our leadership experience. Reflection and growth come from reviewing our actions, identifying opportunities, and finding an acceptable solution for the future.

How can you do it?

Allow yourself to feel the pain from a mistake long enough to create discomfort. Then move on. This will aid you in not repeating the same mistake again because you will recall the discomfort, but will save you from the harmful effects of rumination.

Engage in an activity you enjoy. This takes your mind off of the mistake and puts it in a healthier place. Exercising, reading, or other fun hobbies work well.

Ask a mentor or colleague to help you find a solution to prevent the leadership mistake from occurring again. This will give you an opportunity to learn from someone who may have already gone through a similar experience and to find an acceptable strategy to handle the situation in the future, avoiding rumination altogether.

Managing Employee Relationships: Always Ask for A Better Way

Vicki Noel

 

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

I have focused on time as a barrier during most of this input series.  Since this is the last posted blog, I will focus on comfort as the biggest barrier to engaging input for continuous improvement.  Most leaders like their processes to produce positive results and then for those processes to work smoothly and predictably.  Unless there is an obvious need to change, or significant discomfort with a result, we like our processes to keep on trucking – because there are other fires to put out throughout our day.  Right?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Well…I’m suggesting (and coaching myself with this too) that we make a deliberate effort to continuously engage those were serve by asking them regularly if there is A Better Way to do a process.  This is a leadership behavior that facilitates both meaningful process improvement AND employee engagement.  What a win-win!  Your workforce knows work arounds or processes that could be better.  But like you, they have accepted the processes as “the way we have always done it” and also enjoy the comfort of stability.  Yet, when a leader asks the question “is there a better way to do this”, it sparks the thinking process and creativity of those you serve to engage their input into the improvement process.

How can you do it? 

  1. Ask “Is there A Better Way” every opportunity you can.  Just ask the question “Is there A Better Way?” at staff meetings, in shift change huddles, while rounding, during post-issue debrief meetings…any opportunity that you are working with your team, just ask it.  Listen and ask probing questions to try to fully understand the suggested “better ways” you are receiving.  Encourage your team to ask it of each other when their co-workers or other departments complain about processes.
  2. Assign accountability for trialing the Better Ways.  Not all suggested Better Ways will actually be “better”.  But many you will hear have potential.  Work with your team and assign accountability for groups to work on those promising Better Ways to trial them.
  3. Implement some Better Ways, recognize the input and repeat!  For those improvements that actually prove to be “better” during the trial, implement them – even on a pilot basis.  Get your team excited to see their Better Ways in action!  Recognize the input of your team in always looking for Better Ways to get their work completed and to serve our patients.  The goal is to amplify the value of looking for both more efficient ways of working and higher quality care for our patients…so that your workforce will integrate looking for “better ways” into their daily work.

What other suggestions do you have to integrate looking for “A Better Way” every day?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Recognition for Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The most common barrier to providing recognition to your team is time.  Most leaders are placed in their roles because they like to get things done…and move on to the next thing that needs done.  Taking the time to reflect on the input process (what went well/needs improved) and to thank those that gave their input will take away from getting busy on the next problem.  Other barriers to recognition is either not knowing the individuals well enough to personalize recognition or not knowing who actually gave their input.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If a stakeholder has given you their input, they have invested a little of themselves in solving the problem/making a decision. Engagement is not easy to come by, so if you have members of your workforce that are willing to put themselves out there and offer their input, that is worthy of acknowledgement.  I am not suggesting that you give gifts or that recognition requires monetary reward.  But simple acknowledgement of the time and thought that your stakeholders put into the issue you were trying to solve is important in keeping the energy alive and to reinforce the importance of their input for the next time you will request it.

How can you do it? 

  1. Send a personal note of “thanks”.  Whenever possible, write a note to thank the individuals that provided input.  Personalize the note as much as possible with their name (yes…the power of a first name is incredible), highlight their ideas (if you know specifically), their contributions during team meetings, their support in the roll out, whatever you can highlight that “made a difference” in the process.  There are many options to sending the personal note: handwritten note to their home, email, text.  Use whatever method would be appropriate for the person.  The magic of a personal, specific “thank you” is amazing.
  2. Recognize the people who gave their input when you implement the decision.  Give credit to the stakeholders who gave their input in any presentation or meeting where you reference the idea.  This accomplishes two things: (1) this is another form of recognition for their investment and (2) it lends credibility to the larger audience that individuals close to the process were involved in generating the solution.
  3. Regularly update your stakeholders on the results of the implemented decision.  Our mission at SOMC is to “Make a Difference.”  Engaged stakeholders want to know if what they have contributed to is making a difference…producing results.  Every opportunity you have, either in huddles, staff meetings, or rounds share the results of a process of which your stakeholders gave you input.  If the process is not producing the desired results, then you have an already engaged group of people to go back to the drawing board with.

What are some ways in which you have recognized people for their input?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Implement the Decision

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

In my opinion, a leader is not being honest with herself if she isn’t a bit hesitant to implement a new process or procedure, no matter how many stakeholders have given their input. This hesitancy is most likely the result of a fear of failure…what if I have forgotten something? What if after all of this work the new process does not improve anything? What if the stakeholders involved no longer support the decision? “What if’s” can be paralyzing to any leader if you let them.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Take a deep breath. You involved so many key stakeholders for a reason. As long as there are no obviously negative outcomes that could occur with the implementation of the decision – just launch. Many hours and numerous people’s input went into selecting the decision to implement, so just try it. The worst thing that could happen is that you have to go back to the drawing board with your stakeholders and try a new implementation plan or consider a new decision.

How can you do it?

  1. Follow your communication/implementation plan.
    You have already worked out the who, what, when, where and how details and communicated them to your workforce…now follow the plan. Keep track of new questions that arise during the implementation so that you can respond to your workforce with answers and/or make slight course corrections during the implementation.
  2. Identify the measures of success.
    Identify the measures that would indicate that the decision implemented is achieving the desired outcome(s), i.e. improved patient satisfaction, increased productivity, reduced turnaround time, decreased errors, improved quality. Determine the indicator performance goal for each measure.
  3. Publicize the new process’s performance.
    After implementation, visually report the performance on all measures for your stakeholders to see. This will provide a visual cue to your workforce on how well the new process that they had input into is progressing on achieving the improvement goals.
  4. Regularly audit and review results with stakeholders.
    After a period of time (that you define in the implementation plan) audit the new process’s results and communicate these results with your key stakeholders. Recommend action plans based on the results and get input from stakeholders on the plans. Ask for the help of the key stakeholders in putting the action plans into practice. Repeat the audit and review of action plans until desired improvement is achieved. This step keeps your stakeholders engaged well past their initial input.

Managing Employee Relationships: Decide and Communicate Decision

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

On non-controversial matters, when the leader really could go with whatever the stakeholders identify with the most “pros”, I imagine no barriers exits.  However, when after input it becomes clear that stakeholders are divided on what the leader now believes is the “best” option, that’s when the going gets tough.  In moments like this is when the need to be liked gets in the way.  This need may cause the leader to just go along with the “majority” rather than making the hard decision.  Or, the leader may delay making the decision, continue to analyze the situation or seek additional input that supports her position so she “feels better” about making the decision.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Making decisions to produce desired results is part of the leadership gig.  Period.  In a perfect world, when the stars align and every person giving you input is in agreement, making decisions is a piece of cake.  In reality, a leader’s (or leadership team’s) job is to ask for input, genuinely listen to stakeholders and then make the final decision.  Leadership is taking the heat for the ultimate decision.

How can you do it? 

  1. Share the final pro/con list with the original group of key stakeholders (or in many situations at SOMC, a leadership team).  Prior to your next leadership team meeting, send all participants the final list of pros and cons generated by all stakeholders.  Ask each participant to reflect and come prepared to give input into the final decision.
  2. Determine the final decision by using structured discussion with decision criteria to come to consensus, or the technique of ‘multiple voting’ if more narrowing is needed. The most important step now is to look at the pro/con results from all stakeholders and apply a criterion to make the final decision.  For example, you asked for all possible ways to do a new process and the pros/cons for each.  Now you as the leader/leadership team has to view this list and make the final decision based on which idea will save the most cost (or best for the patient, have the safest outcome, etc.).  Applying the most pertinent Strategic Values as the decision criteria will help guide you as a leader/leadership team on making the best final decision.
  3. Communicate the final decision.  Develop a communication plan for the final decision, which should answer the What (what is the problem and decision), Why (why is it a problem and why this particular decision was made/Strategic Value criteria), Who (who will be affected by the decision), When (when will the decision go into effect), and How (how will the decision be implemented).  The most effective way of communicating this is through a “live” roll-out and a printed FAQ (frequently asked questions) document.

Are there other techniques you have successfully used to communicate your final decision?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Identify Pros and Cons

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

This is going to start sounding repetitive, but time is a leader’s biggest barrier here. After all of our previous steps, you might be getting fatigued with this whole “input thing”. Ha!  Well…hang in there.  It will be worth it for key decisions that you need to make.  Also, our arrogance as leaders might convince us that we know what the pros and cons are better than our stakeholders.  Well…we do…from OUR perspective.  But the perspective we need to tap to make the most informed decision is that of the affected stakeholders.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Great is the temptation to take the list of brainstormed ideas and just pick the final solution from that list.  But remember, we are trying to engage people and to communicate through our actions that their “ideas and suggestions are seriously considered”.  So…enlist their help in seriously considering each idea.  Asking your stakeholders to generate the pros and cons of each idea accomplishes three things: (1) identifies blind spots we have as leader regarding potential solutions; (2) engages stakeholders through the action of thoroughly vetting each idea; (3) allows the strongest suggestions to emerge for all stakeholders to see through displaying all suggested pros/cons.

How can you do it? 

  1. Invite all stakeholders to suggest pros and cons for each suggestion from brainstorming.  There are a few ways that you can do this.  You can send the list of suggestions to each stakeholder electronically and ask them to respond with their pros and cons.  You could send or post the suggestions for a period of time, asking each stakeholder to think of pros and cons and then hold a meeting where you capture their thoughts visually (flip chart/screen).  Or you could post the ideas in an area for a period of time an ask your stakeholders to write pros and cons next to the idea (sticky notes work great for this) as they think of them and then you would summarize.
  2. Get these pros and cons “on the record”.  The method I prefer above is the electronic review and submission because it keeps all of the pros/cons transparent and their owners accountable.  This is important for a few reasons: (1) it allows the leader to clarify a pro/con if not understood; (2) it generally keeps people focused on the organizational issue rather than self-interest; and (3) the author is accountable to their responses (and non-response).
  3. Provide the summarized list back to each stakeholder.  Even when I have employed the electronic method, what I provide back is a full summary of each suggestion and pros/cons.  I typically put a number in parentheses to indicate how many stakeholders listed that similar idea.  This will be helpful for our next step of selecting the decision because it visually begins the process of consensus.

What method of generating pros and cons has been most successful for you?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Ask for All Options

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The biggest barriers to asking for options before making a decision is of course time.  There are critical decisions that need made quickly and may not allow for a full vetting.  But sometimes the “speed crisis” is self-generated because we want to move on and check the item off of our list.  Or we have procrastinated because it is a tough decision to the point that there is no time for this step.  As the leader I may think “I know best” and that going through this process is just a fig leaf.  Or I may assume that my stakeholders don’t care about a decision based on previous lack of input.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

No matter what the problem is or decision needing made…there are ALWAYS options.  There may be no really good options, but options there are.  The more you involve your stakeholders in the generation of options, the clearer it is that management has not already decided a direction.  This promotes potential buy-in if an option suggested by stakeholders is selected for the decision.  As a leader the fact you are taking the time to involve your stakeholders in options for a decision that affects them, will shape a positive perception on two key driver engagement questions on our Employee Engagement Survey – “My ideas and suggestions are seriously considered” and “I am involved in decisions that affect my work.”

How can you do it? 

  1. Identify the OBVIOUS options.  To get the flow going in your stakeholder group, start by identifying the most obvious options.  One such obvious option is to “do nothing.”  It is important that your stakeholders know that this is a serious option that sometimes is the best when all options are considered.
  2. Ask key stakeholders to suggestion as many additional options as possible.  The technique that is helpful with this step is Brainstorming (this link lists the steps and variations of this technique for your consideration).  The goal of this step is VOLUME.  Your goal is to get as many people participating and have the most extensive list of options as possible.
  3. Bring in an outside facilitator if necessary.  If your stakeholders have a pattern of not participating when you ask for suggestions and you have tried some of the techniques in the link above with little improvement, it may be time to ask an outside facilitator to assist.  Sometimes it may be a leadership style or trust issue that gets in the way with active participation.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  4. Share the full list of options with a larger group of stakeholders for further input.  Send your preliminary list out to a larger audience and ask them to add to the options.  This will give you the most complete list of options to consider before prioritization and selection.

Are there additional ways you have successfully used to gather options from stakeholders?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Manage Expectations of Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The biggest barrier to managing the expectations of those giving input is that leaders often skip over this step.  The leader knows why they are asking for input and how they will use that input…so there is really no need to clarify.  Likewise, each stakeholder has their own opinion of why they are being asked for input and how the input will be used.  The gap between the leader and stakeholder’s expectations, if not clarified, can create problems throughout the rest of the input process and implementation of the final decision.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Before you ask stakeholders to brainstorm options, it is imperative to describe up front how the input will be used to make a decision.  In organizations there are “Opiners” and “Deciders”.  It is important for leaders to get the input and opinions of the individuals affected by a process change or who do the work every day (Opiners).  However, the leader is accountable for the decision made and also responsible for taking the input and weighing it against factors that their stakeholders might not be aware of such as financial issues or conflicting strategic priorities (Deciders).  While great places to work regularly solicit and value stakeholder input, we are not democracies governed by majority vote.  Leaders sometimes have to make unpopular decisions that not all stakeholders support.

How can you do it? 

  1. Clarify, up front, the goal of getting stakeholder input.  This seems like a redundant, simple step, but think back to almost any relationship conflict you have ever had.  Most likely the root of the conflict was a result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication or misaligned goals.  Be very specific that you are asking for their input about X because of ABC reasons.
  2. Describe how their input will be used to make a decision.  Be ready to explain the answers to the following: Are you going act on their recommendations?  Or are you just looking for input and then making the decision yourself?  I like to use the phrase “your input about X is very important to me so that I can make the BEST decision.”  This insures that stakeholders are clear that you as the leader will be making the final decision.
  3. Explain how the decision that will ultimately be made from their input connects to the mission/strategic direction.  Never miss the opportunity to connect to the “why” that a decision from their input will have on the bigger picture in your organization.   This may help your stakeholders understand the impact of the decision that you will make (and have the best chance to engage their support for decisions that may not be in all stakeholders’ favor).

What other strategies have you used to clarify stakeholder expectations of their input?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Determine Who Needs to Give Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

When decisions have to be made fast, involving other stakeholders can seem like a waste of precious time.  The right stakeholders’ availability may be delayed.  Identifying the right stakeholders (right departments, job roles, expertise) might not be intuitive and take longer than expected.  Another barrier can be finding the stakeholders with enough interest and passion to not only make the best decision but also be helpful in the implementation.  If finding the “right” stakeholders, fast, seems too difficult, a leader will certainly be tempted to just make the decision alone.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

From the book Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership, the author reflected that Teddy Roosevelt “learned that an adaptive leader can only lead others by listening, truly listening, to understand what the followers believed at that moment in time. It cannot be done by charging ahead alone, simply espousing virtues. Once a leader knew what his followers believed—as well as their prejudices—he could empathize with them. Only then could he lead them.” In order for a leader to know a process, identify possible options for decisions/improvements, to make the best decision and to have buy-in for implementation, a leader needs to get the input of the people most closely involved.

How can you do it? 

  1. Choose a content expert and/or process owner.  If the decision leader is not you, then you need to engage the leader of the process and/or the subject matter expert in the area in the which the decision is needing made.  Understanding current reality of a process and ideas for improvement from the perspective of the person currently leading the process will be very helpful input.  Implementation of a change has little chance of being successful without the process owners input.
  2. Identify the appropriate stakeholders.  Working with the process owner answer the following: Who will be affected by this decision?  Who has expertise about this decision?  Who will be integral in implementing the final decision?  Who is passionate about this decision?  Who will make the final decision?  This will form the basis for a starting stakeholder list.
  3. Create a task force.  From the list of stakeholders, identify 5-10 (10 max) key individuals representing multiple perspectives that can serve as the group to select final decision options.  We will talk more about the function of this task force over the next few weeks.

What barriers have you faced when selecting stakeholders to help you with a decision?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Identify Which Decisions Need Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Leaders have to make numerous decisions every day and let’s face it…leaders LOVE to check things off of their “to-do list”.  Taking the time to think about which decisions should have input from others is messy and would force the leader to pause before marking “Check.”  As a leader, I might not be in touch or miss the mark with what decisions my team would like their input heard. Or out of hubris, I may think that I know what’s best for my department and getting input is just as waste of my time.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

For employees to be committed to their organization and their work, they need to feel that their input is seriously considered, or there is a risk that employees will eventually stop offering suggestions and individual/departmental performance to suffer.  All leaders have limits on time and the extent to which they are able to use input from employees.  Outstanding leaders, however, are clear about what decisions need made and find a way to help their employees feel that their ideas are being seriously considered for decisions that affect their work.

How can you do it?

  1. Create a list of decisions that need made in your department Spend some time with your management team on generating a list of decisions that need made on a regular basis in the operation of your department.  Add to that list any upcoming decisions that you anticipate needing to make in order to improve results in your department. Place an asterisk next to the decisions that impact the work/schedule/assignments of your employees.
  2. Label them based on amount of input needed to make the best decisionAs a leadership team, label each decision with the following criteria (A) No input from team members is appropriate; (B) Some input or recommendations are desired so leader can make the best decision; (C) Appropriate for the team to make the decision.  If the decision has an asterisk next to it, challenge your team to label it either (B) or (C).
  3. Be willing to move decisions into different categories based upon employee input.  Share the list of common and anticipated decisions and your labelling system with your employees.  Facilitate discussion about each decision and get your team members’ input on whether or not you have labelled the decision appropriately.  Be willing to change the labelling based on input.

What are some examples of decisions you have to make that (1) need no input from team members and (2) need input from the team prior to making decision?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.