What You Permit, You Promote

January 30, 2007

Liz Jazwick and I have been colleagues for more than 10 years. We first met at Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago, IL.  Liz is a great presenter and a difference maker. My favorite thing I learned from Liz is, “What you permit, you promote.”

When I became president of a hospital in 1996, 23 percent of employees had late evaluations. I became aware of this issue when I mentioned to some employees our organization’s value of respect. An employee said, “If we are so respected, why is my evaluation late?” Thus, my search led me to find that 23 percent of our employees were waiting for an evaluation to be completed and some had been waiting for weeks and months. If an employee’s evaluation was late, nothing happened to the leader who did not complete it by the deadline.

I guaranteed all staff that in 60 days there would no late evaluations. I put in systems and consequences, positive recognition to leaders with no late evaluations, and connected the dots on why an on-time evaluation is crucial to show staff respect and retain employees. Sixty days later, there were no late evaluations nor were there any while I was there. I believe the system of on-time evaluations and results is still strong.

A few years back, we had a meeting with Studer Group staff members and posed the following question: “What are we permitting, thus promoting?” When people are asked that question, one will hear some good feedback and some ways to improve. For example, one may hear, “You are permitting us to hire our co-workers, thus promoting responsibility and ownership for new hires.” We also heard that we needed to do a better job walking the talk in some areas, and this caused us to tighten up. While the journey was not comfortable, it was worthwhile and made us better.  

In our travels, we find that many organizations are not fully aware of what they are permitting, thus promoting. Here are some examples:

  • A leader who consistently is not meeting patient satisfaction goals is not dealt with, or worse yet, still gets a good review. We are promoting poor performance. 
  • A vice president who is not sharing information that others are sharing.  We are permitting inconsistent communication.
  • Staff not following agreed upon and signed standards of behavior (performance). We are permitting staff to not live the behaviors agreed upon, thus hurting the organizational results.
  • Allowing a physician to intimidate staff. We know from research that if staff are scared, they may not address patient issues with the physician. By allowing intimidation, we are not providing staff or patients the safest environment.
  • A leader keeps blaming the data for results. We are permitting, thus promoting, excuses.
  • A person is on his or her BlackBerry during a meeting. We are permitting lack of respect, thus promoting lack of attention.

You get the gist of it.

Ask yourself: “What am I permitting, thus promoting?” At your next senior leader meeting, put on the agenda “What are we permitting, thus promoting?” At the next department head meeting, take some time to ask leaders what they feel the senior leaders are permitting, thus promoting. At your next staff meeting, ask staff what is being permitted, thus promoted. While you may be disappointed in what you hear, you will not be disappointed in the opportunities presented to improve the organization or the outcomes that will be achieved.

Once you address what you are promoting, leaders may feel they need more training.  It may be that at times leaders permit things because they do to not know how to handle them.  For tips to help your team, click here to access the article Communication Transparency: Clarity Creates Trust by Beth Keane, a Studer Group expert.


17 Responses to “What You Permit, You Promote”

  1. Lee Evins Says:

    I really like the “What you permit you promote” quotable quote. I will use the quote this week in my staff meeting. The saying is more than cute – it is filled with reality and for me this week – ironically timed perfectly – very real indeed.

  2. Cheryl Says:

    This is very timely. There are numerous changes going on in our organization that negatively impact employees financially as well as the work environment. There is an inodinate amount of time complaining about things we cant change, yet it is hard to know how to deal with a peer who is spending not only his/her time but mine as well when there is so much work to do. I appreciate these hints and will put them into use post haste.

  3. MJS Says:

    Its seems to me that the more letters you have behind your name the smarter you are perceived to be, well I don’t have any behind my name, and I fly circles around Quality mangers in Healthcare. You ask why? I came from industry (Manufacturing), quality products, process, environment etc…. you name it. It was the culture instilled in everybody. The low man on the pole knew what his quality objectives are day in day out. That employee’s manager knew what their quality responsibilities were, and excuses were not tolerated at any level. You knew what was going on in your dept. and you had an explanation using data driven facts to explain it. You had a timeline to fix problems, action plans to resolve issues, and you never let the words, I Don’t Know come out of your mouth. I understand that there is a lot of information to gather in Healthcare, you know it too, so their no excuse why you should not have it ready. The boardroom is a place to present info, and gets questioned on it, update leadership and get updated. We sit around boardrooms addressing nothing, and making plans to make plans, have meeting to have meetings, make suggestions that no one is willing to champion, or a champion is assigned t it. There is too much fluff in what is presented, real data, and solutions that are data driven should be the bulk of the presentation. All presentations should be easy to read, and have all the information you spoke on, inside. Quality is a way of life @ home and @ work, if we have proper body mechanics @ work, we should used them @ home, if we pay attention to detail @ home we should do it @ work, it only make sense to be like this if you plan to be the next Toyota Production System. You must understand Quality to live it; you must live it to understand it. Quality starts @ all levels, and no one person is above the company Quality Policy Statement issued by the company. And most of all we work to Continuously Improve.


  4. KB Says:

    Very timely article. My hope, department heads will read and reflect. My position requires routinely “reminding” department heads to turn in required information. Reminders fall on deaf ears this is accepted. Lower level employees are also late with requirements, and accepted. No reward for the people who are aligned. too many excuses from too many people. Thank you for an article that makes sense.

  5. As a corporate productivity consultant, I work with clients who permit all the shortcuts for what they perceive as getting more done in less time. By implimenting shortcuts, they permit multitasking, reduction and sometimes elimination of the planning process thus promoting crisis management. This is a wonderful article for putting cause and effect in perspective.

  6. Stephen Says:

    When you hear others saying less than kind words about an associate or physician and you do nothing, you send the message that it’s okay. Respect and parnership cannot live in that environment. When I hear a person say unkind things, I learn far more about the speaker than I do about the person being spoken about.

  7. BG Porter Says:

    In the Studer Group organization, we have found that not only is the exercise Quint recommends enlightening but that it is one to hardwire.

    We now make this part of our regular quarterly strategic planning process – as an opportunity to get from all levels of the organization feedback about what is working well and opportunities for improvement (what Baldrige examiners refer to as OFIs). This promotes continous improvement.

  8. Norine Says:

    Today’s “What you permit you promote” blog stimulated a great discussion. There are many layers that define our leadership conduct (corporate values, personal codes of conduct, the golden rule, our leadership mentoring experiences, even how we were parented come to mind). We are all vulnerable to allowing our “values” of politeness and tolerance stop us from acting on behaviors that we might otherwise object to. As I write this I’m becoming more than a little nervous because I can hear Quint saying there is no room for uncertainty in leadership. And yet very frequently “right, wrong, good, bad” are not as easily identified as the late evaluations noted in this blog. Is it possible to define the moment when it becomes more important to act then tolerate, when do we put aside the experience of an internal customer for an external one? Is it behaviors over time we are looking for….or do we wait for the data to tell us when to act?

  9. begijn Says:

    I realize this isn’t a kid rearin’ blog, but the principle struck me as applicable to parenting as well.

  10. jody Says:

    I am the volunteer director at a 93-bed hospital (about 200 volunteers). This article struck home, as there are times when I “permit” more leeway in some volunteers than the standards they signed on to. I mean, gosh – they’re older. Yes, they occasionally speak first and think afterwards. But they’re only here 4 hours a week. They mean well… You get the idea. This article reminded me that I can no longer permit mediocre performance, even on occasion, even with volunteers!

  11. Mark Graban Says:

    I really believe in that concept. Another way I’ve heard that said, in “lean manufacturing” circles, is “You deserve what you tolerate” in terms of performance, safety, attitudes, etc. Keep up the great work with the blog!

  12. Jack Ingram Says:

    I found this article to be timely and approporiate to my current struugles with changing our organizational culture.

  13. Mark Henson Says:

    Great article! Reminds me of the book, QBQ! by John G. Miller. We require our staff to read that book when they join our company. We also have frequent conversations about personal accountability and how that affects our productivity, effectiveness, and customer happiness. And, unfortunately, once in a while somebody just doesn’t “get it” even with coaching and feedback. We used to keep those people way too long, but realized that we were promoting a level of performance that was simply unacceptable. As painful as it can be, letting them go makes a HUGE positive difference in the rest of the staff.

  14. […] I have been a fan of Quint Studer’s philosophy ever since reading some of his blog writings (here’s a great example, and note the power of blogs to bring in a new audience). Results That Last is written from the perspective of a seasoned health care executive. I love […]

  15. Your site was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

    I’m Out! 🙂

  16. Alfreda Knight Says:

    Great article I feel we are right on target here at Metcare

  17. Kim Novak Says:

    This philosophy is very practical and timely – implementation should definitly be rewarding.

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