Before embarking on my path to hospital administration, I was a teacher. Many of you know that several of my former students are now working with us. The names and faces of hundreds of these kids float through my conscious and subconscious mind every day and night. It is not unusual to think about the opposite ends of the bell shaped curve, the great ones and the ones who needed the most attention and help. Three of my former students have written to me recently, all three phenomenal people with amazing talents, and all have gone on to do wonderful things with their lives. They were the top of the curve.
The first is from one of my favorite students of all time. She was trying to explain the challenges that I would face on a potential visit to Australia:
Did you know that it is the HOTTEST, DRIEST, FLATTEST, and MOST INHOSPITABLE place of all the inhabited continents? Yes…I’m talking NO WATER, NO SHOWERS! It’s DIRTY, DUSTY, and INFERTILE. The so-called Romantic Outback, is just a VAST, REMOTE, BAKING, BOUNDLESS VOID, teeming with all manner of POISONOUS ANIMALS that want to eat each other AND Y-O-U!
If you’re not bitten by one of the world’s 10 most DEADLY SNAKES, you could be bitten by a funnel web spider. This baby has massive fangs that are large and powerful enough to easily penetrate YOUR fingernails and cripple your writing hand! OR… you could be bitten by one of the other hundreds of poisonous insects or arachnids that inhabit Australia.
Take a walk outside to get a breath of fresh air and you may be kicked in the head by a deranged kangaroo or trip over a dehydrated wallaby. Go too close to water and you may receive a fatal chomping from a man eating “protected” crocodile, or die a slow, painful death from the sting of a box jelly fish. Oh yeah…they also have that Opera House thingy…big deal.
And the next one was from another of my FAVORITE students . . .
Mr. Jacobs Meets Maynard Ferguson
I can’t ‘not’ call you “Mr. Jacobs” because that’s how I remember my time in Junior High School, playing in the marching band, the orchestra, and the most fun of all, Stage Band. It was the mid-70’s, and I thought you were the greatest band director on the face of the earth
All I ever wanted to do was sing and play my instrument. Fast forward 30-some years, and I’m the CEO of a hospital.
It’s not a surprise to me that you ended up where you did. How different is managing a hospital than it is to be in the middle of nearly 200 junior high school kids, all with their own levels of talent, all self-absorbed, crisis-prone, gossip-focused, crashing into one another verbally and emotionally. Wait, are we talking about the band here, or staff in general?
Your November 9th blog says it all. You might as well title it, “How Do You Know What You Don’t Know” (or what no one bothers to tell you). And it usually hits you in the areas (of the hospital of course) that you think are humming along. People you trust are doing wonderful things, just like you thought they were, until you figure out you’ve been had.
A million policies and procedures can never safeguard you against the people who look like adults, sound like adults and dress like adults, but who are sometimes as emotional as 12 years old with not much common sense.
Much of the time I walk around going, “How did this happen?” “What was he/she thinking?” “When was anybody going to tell me about this?”
It’s . . . often a scary feeling of, “Is this real? Did that person just actually say that?”
If you’re a CEO, or in any significant management position, you had better be micro-managing daily…and it had better be your communications process. I’m convinced communication either makes or breaks an organization, and for the CEO, fueling that effort never ends.
It’s not enough that you’re in charge of people’s lives, and the people who take care of them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You have to be all over the information generated from every area, all the time. And be prepared to understand that there are many sides to every story, and even then, it might not be entirely in focus.
I loved you as a band leader, and I would love to visit your hospital and see some of the things you’ve done to make it less institutional.