I’m a big fan of the French onion soup at one of the local bar/restaurants here in northern New Jersey. In what constitutes an almost perfect mid-day meal, they offer it as one of the soups in their soup/half-sandwich lunch special. To achieve that perfection (and to mitigate the guilt of eating all that wonderful cheese), I usually asked that my half sandwich come on flatbread instead of the customary thick Italian bread.
For a while, all was right with the world. Then, one day, after placing my order I noticed someone come out of the kitchen, summon the waiter, and deliver a message. As they conferred, the waiter looked over at me, seemed irritated at what he was being told, then finally nodded his head in acceptance.
What I witnessed was my waiter learning that I could no longer substitute my preferred sandwich bread for the one they intended to give me. Apparently, management couldn’t brook being stuck with the unused half of my half-sandwich custom-bread substitution.
While not overly put out by these developments, I did reflect on the almost mindboggling short-sightedness exhibited by them. For what literally amounted to pennies, this business was willing to say no to a customer, to throw away a golden chance to please and substitute it with an opportunity to irritate.
This may be a natural and initial reaction in business, in life — to get as much as possible and give as little in the bargain — but, if success and happiness are the goals, it is absolutely the wrong one. This is the approach I naively took when starting healthsystemCIO.com — a focus on Terms and Conditions, contracts which try to guard against every lost nickel, stipulations aimed at charging for this or that infringement. It was all wrong.
Now, I focus on how to over-deliver by saying yes at every possible opportunity, by going beyond the contract and offering discounts and rebates if we get something wrong. Does this mean I’ve gone all soft when it comes to business? Absolutely not. This approach is good for business. This approach is good for any aspect of life. This approach is grounded in the generosity of spirit that will foster the most profound successes.
You need to develop this same style of generosity with employees, managers, patients/customers and vendors. And remember, what goes for those paying you goes doubly for those you are paying. Often, we mistakenly think that service providers and employees should be content with the check they get, and need not be treated with the same respect and consideration those paying us deserve. Are you obsequious with managers but dictatorial with employees and vendors? If so, you’ll only get their minimum, certainly never their best.
People ask me all the time: what’s the number one issue CIOs are facing in healthcare today? I say, undoubtedly, it’s an unsustainable level of stress being placed on you and your shops because of excessive government mandates, because of an unmanageable pace of chance over which you have little control. Think about this: you have a workforce (in very short supply) being ground into dust by overwork and unsupportable stress levels. This is a recipe for disaster. Only by embodying the highest and most noble principles of behavior, of management, can you hope to reach the far shore with most of your crew intact.
To achieve this, you must somehow apply the counterintuitive principles I’ve alluded to above. Though you need more from employees, figure out how to demand less. Though you have little wiggle room in the budget, figure out how to give even the most token of raises. Appreciate effort, accept the imperfect and fight every urge to say no.
Generosity creates goodwill and goodwill is what makes those around you achieve great things. Say yes and you start that cycle, say no and you nip it in the bud. In all decisions, carefully weigh the costs — and hopefully you’ll come to wiser conclusions than the organization formerly known as my favorite restaurant.
“Generosity creates goodwill and goodwill is what makes those around you achieve great things.” Very well said. Too few people in charge seem to grasp this concept–but kudos to those who do!