Archive for November, 2009

The Grateful Workplace: Six Ways to Create a Culture of Gratitude in Your Organization

November 25, 2009

Author and Speaker Liz Jazwiec explains how anyone at any level can infuse gratitude into their organizational culture.

Here’s a question just in time for Thanksgiving: Does your organization encourage a culture of gratitude? Not in an obligatory, “Gee, I really appreciate my coworkers and the feeling is mutual!” way? Chances are the answer is no. According to a recent Gallup poll, 65 percent of people say they don’t feel appreciated at work. And, that feeling can lead to pervasive negativity, low morale, and (worst of all) decreased productivity.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Organizations can deliberately infuse their cultures, from top to bottom, with the proverbial “attitude of gratitude.” Workplace gratitude is often passed from the boss to the employee. To have a real impact on workplace positivity, employees should show it to one another and to their bosses. And leaders and employees should show it to their customers.

It’s obvious when you are in a workplace where people value gratitude and graciousness. There is a really great vibe in those places. And when gratitude and graciousness are missing, it is equally evident. People in those environments seem to have a sense of entitlement. Coworkers who come into contact with them might say, “There is just no pleasing those people!” Customers might say, “They just don’t care about me!” Neither reaction is good for business.

The great thing about infusing gratitude into the workplace is that it can come from anyone, regardless of position. If you are a leader, you can infuse gratitude from the top down, perhaps by making it a required standard of behavior for employees. And if you are an employee, you can start your own grassroots gratitude movement by expressing gratitude yourself and encouraging your coworkers to do so as well. Everyone—and I mean everyone—can show gratitude in a workplace and influence others to do so.

If you want to make this the season of gratitude at your organization, read on for a few tips on how to hardwire workplace gratitude from the ground up.

Say thanks. When someone does something kind for you, whether it’s your boss, your coworker, or a stranger, recognize it! A simple “thanks” will do. You can’t expect people to appreciate you if you don’t receive their kindnesses and compliments with thankfulness. Sure, you might be skeptical if your boss goes to a leadership conference, and upon his return starts handing out compliments left and right. But just stop and think. Are those compliments making people happy? When you are recognized, does it give you even just the tiniest little twinge of happiness?

If so, then you’d better meet the gratitude your boss is showing with a little gratitude in return. Otherwise he will start thinking that his recognition doesn’t really mean anything to anyone, and his exercise in gratitude will be short-lived. And leaders, give your employees a chance to jump on the gratitude bandwagon. It may take a couple of compliments from you before they realize what this new positivity movement is all about. You may get a few skeptical looks after the first few compliments, but eventually they will warm up to the idea and be thankful—there’s that word again—that you are making the effort.

Adopt an “it’s the thought that counts” attitude. Consider this scenario: A new VP at a hospital wants to do something special for her hardworking, overworked staff. It’s decided that pizza will be provided for the entire hospital staff, rolling out over a Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to ensure that every person on every shift can take a pizza break. The pizza plan goes into effect and the VP, who arranged everything, walks around the departments, expecting to be welcomed with open arms by an appreciative staff. Instead she finds that many of the teams taking care of patients are upset because they can’t leave their patients to go down to the cafeteria where the pizzas are located. Meanwhile (they complain), the business office and IT staffs are able to go to the cafeteria as they please.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I was that VP. And I was devastated. I had tried so hard to get it right. Now, I did learn from that experience. I knew that the next time I should have the pizzas delivered directly to the units. But had I been someone with a different personality, I might have just decided never to order pizzas, or do anything else special ever again. My point is that sometimes you have to take into account the intentions of your boss or your coworkers. If it is clear that they meant for something to be a way of thanking you or helping you, don’t complain about how they missed the mark. Thank them for thinking of you and move on!

Communicate openly and honestly. If it’s gratitude you need, tell someone! Often your leaders or coworkers can be so tied up in their own tasks that they forget about those working around them. The natural reaction when this happens is to either hold in your negative feelings or complain to another coworker. But a more proactive stance might be to opt for open and honest communication.

Now, I am not suggesting you go around asking people to thank you for what you are doing. That would be pretty obnoxious. But what you might do is ask your boss or coworkers if you are giving them everything they need from you. And you might also start showing them some appreciation. Gratitude is a two-way street. If you start making other people feel appreciated, nine times out of ten they will not be able to hold in their appreciation for you. You don’t have to wait for one of your leaders from on high to implement a gratitude initiative. It will be just as effective if it starts with you!

And leaders, if you feel your lack of gratitude is justified because your staff isn’t living up to their potential, communicate what’s missing. If this is the case, it’s likely that you are all stuck in a negativity cycle. You are unhappy with them. They sense that and become unhappy with you. Their unhappiness leads them to give less than 100 percent on the job…and you become even less happy with them. Get the picture?! If you aren’t getting what you need from them, let them know. And when they start delivering, thank them for their efforts.

Be prepared for some kind words. If you are unaccustomed to getting compliments, it may take some time for you to feel comfortable receiving them. Just practice and be prepared for some kind words! When I first started speaking, I had no idea what to say to people when they told me they liked my presentation. I had to rehearse being gracious and grateful. Can you imagine if someone came up to me and said, “I just loved your speech!” and I responded with, “Whatever?” Yikes and double yikes! It seems so funny we should have to practice saying “thank you,” but many of us just don’t know how to process gratitude. So start practicing!

It is just as important for leaders to practice this skill. It isn’t easy for many employees to approach their bosses—even when it is with a compliment—so make sure you give them the attention they deserve. Truly listen to them. Take a second, no matter what you are doing, to engage with them. And afterwards shoot them a quick email or send them a note thanking them for their kind words.

Thank those you serve. Once you have mastered the gratitude thing with your bosses and your coworkers, you need to move on to the people you serve. When I first told my staff that we ought to be thanking our patients, one of them replied, “What are we supposed to say? Thank you for breaking your leg?” Obviously not! I suggested they say, “Thank you for putting your trust in us today.”

You can do it with a simple, “Thank you for giving us your business.” Or you can thank them by providing other special incentives or coupons. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, just make sure they know you are grateful that they are choosing to do business with you over your competition.

Know that gratitude encourages repeat performances. Leaders, remember the behavior you recognize will be repeated. If you think an employee handled a disgruntled customer well or showed great proficiency in managing a group project, let her know about it and she’ll work hard to do the same, or even better, next time. And employees, if you acknowledge your boss’s efforts to show gratitude, she will keep doing it. Thank her for going to bat for you and your coworkers over a new piece of equipment you need or a pay raise dispute, and she’ll be more likely to do it again in the future.

I think it’s important to recognize the fact that no one has any obligation to show gratitude to anyone else. You don’t have to thank your boss, your boss doesn’t have to thank you, and neither of you have to thank your customers. But what I think you will all quickly find is that if you do take the time to say “thanks” your whole organization will improve. You’ll like each other more. You’ll want to go the extra mile for one another. And your customers will be happier.

I know from experience that the best places to work are places where teams are grate­ful for what is given to them and aren’t afraid to express sincere ap­preciation whenever it is merited. The best places to work are those where individuals, regardless of their position, accept compliments and praise with grace and don’t second-guess the intention. Even in these tough times, most of us have a lot to be grateful for every day. It’s important to recognize that. When you seek to expand both team and individual gratitude and graciousness, your work environment will be even healthier. You will see negativity slip away, and I can almost guarantee it: You’ll see your efforts reflected in the bottom line and most importantly happier employees and patients.

In gratitude,

Liz Jazwiec
Studer Group National Speaker

For more information on Liz and her book, Eat That Cookie!, please visit

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Own Your Leaders’ Development…not Their Symptoms

November 18, 2009

Are the leaders you supervise growing and developing?
Are they taking ownership of the challenges they face, or are they laying the burden on you?

There are certain statements you might hear from leaders or staff that raise a red flag. Often, these statements are symptoms of a larger problem. They indicate that it’s time for a leader to take a personal inventory and for you to help him or her develop.

Five of them are listed below, along with my suggested responses to each. In the past week I have heard all of these except for number five, which I typically hear from departments located off-site from the main campus.

  1. From a leader: “The staff does not feel appreciated.”
    Ask the leader, “What do you feel you need to do for the staff to feel appreciated?” Help her own the situation. If she doesn’t own the situation, she won’t own a solution. Ask her, based on the feedback she receives when rounding on support staff or patients, “How much recognition have you harvested and shared with your staff? How often have you managed up staff to me as your leader?” Have your leaders ask each staff person what they are looking for in terms of appreciation. They can share a time when they felt appreciated so the leaders have a clear example to follow. I find leaders may feel they are showing appreciation, but staff may not see it that way. Tell them: “Don’t guess; ask. Don’t fall into the trap of feeding victim behavior. Finally, let staff also know what you are looking for in performance so that you’ll have the opportunity to show appreciation.”
  2. From a staff member: “I like my leader because he protects me.” Or, “My leader stands up for us!”
    Ask the staff member, “Protects you from what? Why do you feel you need protection? What, specifically, is your leader standing up for?” I guarantee you will hear comments that indicate the leader may not have the skill to explain things or handle tough questions without putting others in a negative light. The better leaders see themselves as leaders in the organization first, then as leaders of their department.
  3. From a staff member: “I want my leader to be on equal footing with other leaders so she can go toe-to-toe with them.”
    This statement was made regarding a situation in which some staff members felt that if their leader was at the same level as the leader’s supervisor or another leader then things would be better. This is usually a skill issue. In other words, the leader does not have the skill to communicate why certain decisions were made and that she supports the decision.
  4. From a staff member when her boss is present: “I don’t feel that I’m getting the professional development I need, and my supervisor agrees.”
    Ask the staff member and leader how often they meet to discuss development. Ask to see the plan. Most likely there is not one. Again, the leader may not have the skill to create the plan or the organizational ability to make it happen. He might also be telling staff that he can’t give them the development they want because of the budget, the policy, or because, “You know how Tom is….” He is not owning the department. Also ask the staff person what actions she is taking for her development. Too often in healthcare, people exhibit “adult child” actions. Here the staff member is not owning her own development. I have even seen leaders invite their leaders or other C-Suite people to the department so staff can ask questions directly. If you are in this situation, ask the department leader to answer any questions about professional development first, before you answer them.
  5. From a leader: “My area feels like the red-headed stepchild.”
    When I heard this statement, I asked the leader why the staff felt that way. She said it was because they were not located on the main campus and no one came to see them. They were left out at times. They didn’t feel included. I asked what she was doing to address these things, and I got a blank stare. I asked her how often staff members invited others to the department and how often she invited senior leaders over. I noticed they had a nice large room. I asked her if she ever suggested they move a department meeting from across the street to their meeting room. If she did that, I pointed out, with one action all of the department directors would now be over here. I asked her whether she interacted with other leaders, or whether she stayed in this off-site building all the time. By now you can guess the response I received. My main message to her was to integrate herself first, and then integrate the department. Don’t be a victim. To her credit she quickly did those things and more. Things got better.

The leaders of the leaders in these five scenarios were taking too much responsibility on themselves. My advice: Own what you feel you need to own, but give the rest right back to the leaders you supervise.

As a leader it’s natural to want to take ownership. But take ownership of how you are developing those who report to you, not ownership of their problems.

Don’t fall victim to the symptoms of an under-developed, under-skilled leader. If you fix the symptoms, those reporting to you will actually think it is your job and will not learn to take ownership. By empowering them to attack the symptoms at the source, you’ll ultimately help create happier, healthier leaders—and a happier, healthier organization.


Quint Studer, CEO
Studer Group


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It’s the Bounce Back that’s Crucial

November 11, 2009

Setbacks are universal. Every person, department, and organization experiences them. As long as the external environment is in a state of change, setbacks are inevitable. Also, completely unexpected occurrences will cause disruptions from time to time.

While the movement downward is significant, it’s an organization’s ability to bounce back—and bounce back quickly—that separates the best performers from the rest.

Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville, Indiana, is such an example. The organization has been recognized for excellence many times. Solucient listed it as a top 100 hospital. Studer Group has twice recognized it as Fire Starter of the Month. Other accolades include Best Places to Work, Kentucky Quality Award, and Economic Impact Award. It was an Indiana Excellence Award finalist. It received a Baldrige site visit in 2009.

Plus, the hospital’s results in Service, Quality, Finance, People, Growth, and Community have been solid for years.

So what happened? In the first quarter of this year, Clark had everything in place for an increase in patient care volume. But it did not come. A hospital that had always made money found itself, suddenly, in the red.

Here is what its leadership did, and they did it quickly: Senior leaders reduced their pay by 12 percent, and all other leaders reduced theirs by 10 percent until the organization was back on track. Not one leader left.

Staff focused tighter on all operations to improve productivity. In just one quarter they were back on track. During this time, staff turnover went down, productivity went up, and patient satisfaction stayed above the 90th percentile.

The organization is very transparent. It has been developing leaders for years and conducting employee forums. Leaders used their current methods to communicate all this information, the needed changes, and the “why” behind them. Their efforts paid off.

In summary, no one is immune to tough times. It’s how agile the organization is that counts. Having a strong foundation in place—one characterized by transparency, measurement, communication, hardwiring actions, and accountability—allows for quick action. Senior leaders lead the way with role model behavior.

In his newest book, Bounce, author Keith McFarland describes that every great organization faces adversity and setbacks—it’s how the organization bounces back that is the key. I agree. Over the years, I’ve seen his message played out by the organizations I serve…and I expect to see it proven again and again as we head into the future.


Quint Studer

Quint Studer, CEO

Studer Group

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Click here for more information on Quint’s new book, Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action and Accountability.

The Top Ten Mistakes in Setting Goals

November 5, 2009

For years, healthcare leaders have been evaluated by means of a “Does Not Meet/Meets/Exceeds” scale. The problem with this is that it doesn’t really tell you what the leader accomplished. I believe a far more fair method is the use of a clear, objective, and weighted evaluation based on specific goal achievement.

The evaluation makes use of a one-to-five rating system for each goal, with the leader who exceeds expectations earning a five. And every goal is assigned a weight – a percentage – based on its importance so that leaders know where to put the most energy. However, my work with hospitals across the country has taught me that implementation of this leader evaluation system can be challenging for some. The good news is that missteps can be fixed with an understanding of what went wrong.

Here are the top ten, most common mistakes made during the first year of rollout and how they can be avoided:

  1. Inappropriately assigning organization-wide goals to middle managers. For instance, it’s not uncommon for a hospital to assign its overall patient satisfaction goal to middle managers who have nothing to do with direct patient care. Instead, these individuals should have goals relevant to their position in the organization.
  2. Goals are over- or under-valued in their assigned weight. Make sure you assign weights according to the goal’s importance and impact on the organization. The more significant the goal is to the organization’s success, the higher its weight should be.
  3. All leaders share the same weights for a goal, even when their responsibilities don’t impact the weights. Leader’s goals should be weighted according to what they’re directly accountable for. Why should a person with minimal financial oversight, for example, be given a budgetary goal weighted at 50%? Yet I’ve seen it happen.
  4. Instead of the outcomes, tactics such as projects or processes are used as goals. Don’t confuse the two – a tactic is the process/project used to reach a goal.
  5. Designating healthcare regulations as goals when they’re really expectations. Regulatory standards should be a presupposed life style in the healthcare world.
  6. Leaders fail to accept responsibility for far-reaching organizational goals they directly impact. Any leader who has influence over whether or not an organization-wide objective is achieved should own that goal.
  7. Lack of uniformity in measurement. Define the measurement criteria for achieving a goal and what success will look like. Otherwise, leaders will invent their own definitions, targets or metrics …which results in confusion and inconsistency across the organization.
  8. Leaders are allowed to “cherry pick” the easiest goals to meet instead of the most important. Cherry picking the undemanding targets gives staff the opportunity to achieve its goals, the leader looks good, and there is cause for celebration. However, in the long run, the organization suffers when a leader fails to concentrate on the important goals, the ones that will make the most difference.
  9. Setting numerical targets where all leaders move up at the same rate. For instance, an organization wanting to move patient satisfaction results upward asks every leader to be responsible for increasing the scores by ten points. One manager is at the bottom of the barrel with patient satisfaction at 5 percent, while another one has achieved an 85 percent approval rate. Yet both are expected to improve at the same rate. This puts the first manager shooting for 15 percent, hardly much of an upgrade. But the second one will have to hit 95 percent, a very difficult thing to do – plus it’s hardly fair. The organization needs to consider rate of improvement instead of targets founded on the baseline when setting goals.
  10. The goal is achieving a prestigious reward as opposed to the outcomes themselves. Don’t put the cart before the horse: Outcomes and results should be the priority – the awards will come. Remember, it’s the journey which warrants a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality award or Magnet status…that takes the organization to a whole new place.

If you have any questions or suggestions on how to implement goals in your organization please feel free to email me at
Yours in service,

Bill Bielenda

Bill Bielenda, Studer Group Coach
Studer Group

For more information on Studer Group’s Leader Evaluation Manager™ software tool that automates the goal setting and performance review process for all leaders, and to review sample leader goals visit

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