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Slide1In 1998, just about the time that Wikipedia was born, and My Space was big, Alpheus Bingham and Aaron Schacht from pharmaceutical company Ely Lilly were sitting around a conference table, coffee cups in hand, trying to figure out how the internet might be useful to business. They had an idea that they could create a platform to bring together companies that had big problems to solve – they call them “Seekers”, with anyone smart or ambitious across the globe, whom them called “Solvers”. They offer a cash prize to an individual or team of people who creates the best solution to problems like, finding how to “measure the thickness of polymeric film”, or dilemmas like, how to “increase the social and community acceptance of renewable energy”.  The company that gave birth to this creative way to use the internet to crowd source solutions is named Innocentive.  Even though crowd sourcing isn’t new, each time a discovery happens as a results of this kind of process, I bet it feels like the magic is happening for the first time. At least that’s how it felt for us.

In May 2014, Community dabbled in its own Seeker-Meets-Solver experiment by bringing together 160 employees in a focus group we call an “Engagement Accelerator”. We were seeking to understand why our employees were unhappy with one of our benefits, and discover what else would make employees feel more supported. I am so grateful for the open way everyone shared their ideas and wanted to share some tips that we learned from this experience.

If you hear more than once that something is broken, that’s a sign it’s broken

Off and on our employees told us how disenchanted they were over our Paid Time Off (PTO) program. So, we did what any good businessperson would do – we looked at the market. Were we competitive? Highly. Check. Was the policy well written? Reasonably well. Check. Silly as it may sound, we discovered we were simply confusing everyone by the codes in our timekeeping system and on employee’s paychecks. Also, the discussion revealed that we had done too little to educate people about how the policy worked. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

“Before you ask which way to go, remember where you’ve been.”

This lyric, from a song titled “Stay Awake – Dreams Only Last for a Night”, appropriately describes another revelation. The grapevine said that employees wanted to donate their PTO to other sick employees. In fact, a manager had asked me to look at this request eighteen months ago, so we put it on the growing list of things we wanted to improve. During the focus group discussions we heard that a policy had been in place several years ago, but for reasons no one could remember, had been eliminated. The team felt great. This was low hanging fruit that could be acted upon very quickly.

Just asking isn’t enough

One operating principal contributed more to the success of this event than anything else. We not only asked for feedback but we shared data that shows we know our workforce is smart. We shared our system finances – both a look back and a look forward. We shared the investment we make in our benefits in terms of cost. We went out on a limb and led everyone through    “The Ladder of Inference”, and followed this with a discussion of any misconceptions about the way things operate and why.

It’s a long journey but brick by brick we’re building toward our goal of becoming an Employer of First Choice in the Valley. Brick by brick.

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On Wednesday May 14, 2014, Community joined dozens of other companies in Fresno and thousands of companies across the United States who are encouraging employees to put on their biking shorts in the month of May for Bike To Work Day.

1960s English Racer

1960s English Racer

Cycling has it’s own language

Although I wouldn’t call myself an enthusiast yet, I’ve enjoyed the trails in Fresno thanks to my neighbor Carlos Ramirez, who part of the Fresno Cycling Club. In a couple of Saturday bike rides I learned a few things. Such as – to say you’ll ride a “ metric century” means that you’re riding 100 miles or 12 hours. Another piece of trivia I learned is that a pack of bikers is called a “pelaton”. One member of the pack may serve as the “domestique”, or “servant” because they sacrifice their individual performance to help their teammates by carrying extra supplies like food and water. I told Carlos that I’d like to simply claim that I was the domestique to explain my slow pace. He just smiled.

Is Cycling good for your Health, or Good for the Environment?

Both. We know that exercise that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time, helps control your weight, elevates your mood, and lowers your blood pressure. But cycling is also a “Green” thing to do.   The Silicon Valley Biking Coalition says that almost 40 percent of Bay Area commuters live within five miles of their workplace and that if all these people ditched their cars and biked to work instead, it would take 60,000 cars off the road that day, and reduce vehicle emissions by more than 150,000 pounds. Wow.

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John Kass, Interim COO and CNO

John and his English Racer

I decided to ask John Kass, avid cyclist and Chief Nursing Officer for Clovis Community Hospital, how he got into biking.   He said that his passion for cycling happened when his grandpa John Kohler, who was a world traveler, bought him an English Racer. At 5 years old, he wasn’t even tall enough to get on the bike himself, so his grandfather would hoist him up, and with a quick push, he’d was off – riding in circles to the amusement of the neighbors until one of them would catch him and help him down. “Riding a bike just came naturally to me”, John said.

Now instead of riding in circles around the neighborhood, John routinely rides 60-70 mile rides on a Saturday with an elevation of 4000 ft. When I asked him to take a bike-selfie, he texted me this photo.   I replied, and said “ Retake it! You need to smile”. His response was no-nonsense. “That’s what I look like after my heart rate reaches 150 and I’ve hit 90 watts per minute”, he texted back.  Only my light bulbs at home have watts, so having no idea what he was talking about, I simply replied with a smiley face emoticon and the note- “OK”.

Is Cycling about the Camaraderie, the Competition or the Challenge?

Yes. John says that when he’s cycling he watches his bike computer and tries to drive himself, but that he also likes the teamwork and fun of biking with a group.   Despite a little incident when a car pushed him off the road and he flew head first over the front of his bike suffering a fractured thumb, John is passionate about his sport of choice. When asked how old he thinks he’ll be when he stops biking, he said, – “I can’t imagine ever stopping. It’s a part of who I am”.

Congrats 

The same spirit of high performance that makes John a great long distance cyclist is a part of why he was just named the Interim Chief Operating Office at Clovis Hospital.  Congrats John.  You’re a rock star!

 

 

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Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 4.17.09 PMThirteen years ago in March of 2000, Rob McEwen, who had just become chairman and CEO of a mining operation in Ontario, Canada, decided he had a problem too big to solve by conventional methods. His company GoldCorp, was in distress. The price for gold was at an all-time low, and his operating costs were extremely high. Red Lake mine was producing only one-third as many ounces as his neighboring competitor and the miners were restless and ready to strike.     It was proving to be as difficult to search Red Lake ’s 55,000 acres as it is to find Flight 370, the Malaysian airliner lost somewhere in the 28-million-square-miles of the Indian Ocean.

What McEwen did to solve his problem was unprecedented. He decided to publish all of Red Lake’s proprietary data on the web and committed to giving a cash price of up to $105,000 to anyone who could tell them where they’d find the next 6 million ounces of gold. He nicknamed this project “The GoldCorp Challenge” and the response was big. Over 1400 scientists, engineers and geologists from 50 countries decided to participate.

The winner ended up being collaboration between two firms in Australia who had agreed to split the prize. Neither firm had physically visited the mining site, but instead had analyzed the data to produce a 3D graphical depiction of the dig sites.

It’s About Making a Difference

When the winning team members were interviewed, they said that they didn’t compete because of the prize money. In fact, the prize money barely covered the hours invested in their research. Yes, they had wanted the recognition that would come from solving the puzzle, but most of all, they wanted to open the eyes of their industry to a new way of doing exploration. In short, they invested the time because they wanted to make a difference. In the words of the winning team leader, “This has been like a beacon (of hope) in a sea of darkness,” for the mining industry.

This story, published in Fast Company Magazine, is yet another example of what James Surowiecki calls the “Wisdom of Crowds”. About 18 months ago, Community used crowd-sourcing, by bringing together 250 employees to discuss and debate what kind of culture and benefits we need in order to attract and retain the brightest minds, the most committed and loyal hearts and souls and the most highly engaged employees on the planet. Like McEwen, we struck gold and these ideas generated a powerful action plan that turned into measurable outcomes

Mining Expedition Scheduled 5-14-14

Employees at the 2012 Engagement Accelerator

Employees at the 2012 Engagement Accelerator

We know that we need to continue to innovate though so we will are going to tap employee input once       again, on May 14, 2014 when we will be hosting an “Engagement Accelerator.” We’re inviting 160 randomly-chosen employees to attend this event and discuss how the PTO/sick time policy works and how to improve it, as well as, brainstorm other changes to create an innovative, transparent, mission-oriented, results-driven culture. We’ll be reporting back about the nuggets of wisdom we gain from this session and of course, the action steps. So stay tuned.

(This blog post was originally published on the Community Medical Center website – The Forum)

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to attend a presentation called “How to Fail at the New Healthcare: The Masters Class,” at the beautiful H. Marcus Radin Education Center on the Community Medical Center campus in Fresno.  Healthcare futurist Joe Flower has spent 30 years studying the way healthcare works and challenged us to think about the risks of 22 strategic choices we might make about how to operate in the future. The “ways-to-fail” list include things like failing to build a new business model by sticking with fee for service, failing to engage patients and physicians and forgetting to build trust.

My natural focus, in both life and in business, is to explore and reveal the positives.  I am a proponent of strengths based learning and development, emotional intelligence, and the power of positive thinking.    But just this once, I thought I’d see what happened if I explored what my friend Chris Slater, who is an artist calls, “the importance of painting the negative space.”   So, here are 10 things you can do if you want to be completely and totally miserable at work.

1) Lack a sense of humor

Life is messy so one of the quickest ways to hit bottom is to be dead serious, all – and I mean all – of the time. If you are working on a project with your peers and the DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) fails to act on one of their accountabilities, take advantage of this by blaming them, talking behind their backs or snubbing them the next time you meet them in the cafeteria.  Healthcare is a serious business right?  Falderal and silliness just causes mistakes and we can’t have that, now can we?

2) Be self-centered 

I know you think it’s all about you but really it’s all about me.  Heighten your quest for misery by focusing really hard on ignoring the people around you.  I mean, geez – how needy are those people!?  They want to be communicated with constantly.  They’re always asking for help. They are clingy and want to spend quality time together. They use reverse psychology to get compliments for themselves by saying nice things to you!  They can’t think for themselves so they’re always asking for your input. You can fix all this by saying, “Leave me alone, so I can do my work and get out of here.”

3) Think the sky is falling

Catastrophizing is an excellent way to bring on that dull prolonged sense of unhappiness.    When I hear about the innovative plans to expand our bed capacity, I know by gosh, that there is no way in H-E-double-hockey sticks that the idea is gonna work.  Seriously, things are never going to get better – EVER – no matter how hard any of us work.  See?  Uh, are you getting that sinking feeling yet?

4) Stop learning

Remember that saying, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten?”   It’s true. There’s no reason to spend any time developing new skills.  That’s too much work.  And besides, if you are properly executing strategy #2 (Be self-centered), the teammates you are snubbing in the cafeteria will get the hint and just do those things for you.

5) Believe you’re the smartest person in the room

It’s really difficult to work amidst such a large number of low functioning people. But you must so just buck up.  Remember, things will be ok because you are the only one who really knows what’s going on.  Asking others for their insights just clouds your thinking.  This strategy works best when combined with some physical behaviors like frowning while crossing your arms in front of you, or the ultimate – the eye roll.  Use a mirror to practice.  You’ll know you’ve got this one down when people stop sitting next to you in meetings.

6) Distrust everybody

Surely you’ve been watching the news and have heard how the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting all the phone numbers you’ve been dialing and gosh, who knows – maybe even listening to your calls.  People are sneaky.  It’s just the human condition so watch your back.  Don’t share any personal details with the people you work with.  I mean not even the names of your kids.  Why would they want to know that stuff any way?

7) Create a hit list

If you’ve developed your proficiency in #6 (distrust everybody), you’re definitely going to want to create a hit list.  Luckily on this one, we all have a great role model to follow in the Governor of the great state of New Jersey.   Step one – gather the names of everyone who has ever disagreed with you on anything and put it on a list.  Step 2 – find a way to make their life a living hell for as long as possible.  Don’t worry about the collateral damage of impacting people you never intended.  Think of it this way – if Governor Christie had been worried about the elderly having their ambulance show up on time, he never would have been able to properly make his point.

8) Talk a lot

Since #5 is true and you “believe you are the smartest person in the room,” it just makes sense that everybody else should listen to you.  Find a way to monopolize conversation.  Truly, it doesn’t matter if you know all the facts.  It’s your opinion that counts.  Oh, and go ahead and interrupt if someone else is talking—that’s always good.

9) Go it alone

We enter this world alone and we leave it alone. Our DNA is obviously programmed so that there is no need to lean on another human being for support.  Be stoic.  Hold in your feelings until you think you’ll pass out.  Remember that no one else has problems like yours – absolutely no one.  Even if someone wanted to help you they would not know the first thing about what to do.

10) Play it safe

Don’t listen to that song “Brave” by Sarah Bareilles.  Being brave just puts a target on your back.  Stay in the shadows. Don’t be direct or transparent or real or honest or committed.  Don’t express your feelings, don’t be passionate, don’t dance as though no one is watching, or love as though you’ve never been hurt or sing as though no one can hear, or live as though heaven is on earth.  What good would that do? Honestly!

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The holidays are a perfect time to catch up on reading just for fun.  This Christmas you won’t catch me knee deep in a James Michener novel.   Instead I look for lighthearted tales, with a tinge of sarcasm.   So if that’s your cup of tea as well, I recommend heating up a nice cup of hot chocolate and sitting down to read Tina Fey’s book “Bossy Pants.”

In Bossy Pants, Tina describes what she learned at Second City, an improvisation and sketch comedy theater in Chicago.  She says the rules of improvisation will change your life and reduce belly fat. And, maybe these rules can also improve the engagement on your team or the relationship with your significant other.  You be the judge.

Rule#1- Always agree and say yes.

In a business sense this doesn’t mean that we simply run with any idea no matter how bad.  Instead, as Fey puts it, the rule reminds you to “respect what your partner has created and at least start from an open-minded place.”  Fey points out that in improv, this takes the form of saying, “Freeze, I have a gun,” to which your partner should avoid saying, “No you don’t, that’s your finger.”  See.  That’s not funny.  In business when employees say, “This new software stinks,” we should avoid reviewing the three competitive bids and 20-page document that shows why it does not stink, because this kills employee engagement.  An alternative might be to say, “Yes, it sounds like we have some bugs to work through. Let’s see if IT can help us through this.”  In both comedy and business, saying “yes,” validates the other person and shows you trust what they are talking about.

Rule #2 – Say Yes, And. 

In improv, Fey says that it’s all about adding something of your own.  When your partner lays out a line like “Boy it’s hot in here,” you could respond with, “Yes, and that can’t be good for the wax figures.”  The point is relationships are positively impacted when you respect what the other person has presented and add something to it.  Fey says this rule is about not being afraid to contribute.  So as leaders we want to encourage contribution to make a little bit of magic happen.  That magic, according to Professor Fey, is the result of showing people that their initiative is worthwhile.  As employees we need to take a risk and speak up, ask for that assignment and stretch a little bit.

Rule #3 – Make Statements

This rule is Fey’s shorthand for something we often try to teach in our leadership development training curriculum.  I’m simply going to quote Fey because I don’t want to ruin the humor while making the point.  She says:   “Be a part of the solution, don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.  We’ve all worked with that person.  That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like, “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up? Or, “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice.”  As leaders we sometimes need a reminder to stop raising obstacles and get out of our employee’s way.   As employees we need to think positively and act with positive intent.

Rule #4 – The Best Rule:  There are no Mistakes, only Opportunities.

Employees won’t believe this if they are chastised when they try something new and it doesn’t work out.  So, while this saying is great, employees want to know they can use a little bit of trial and error.  Obviously trial and error is not a recommended practice in the surgery suite or for the employees who manufacture your car.  Fey’s words are an encouragement to create engagement by letting people takes risks.  Why?  Because, in her words, “Many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident – I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup or Botox.” 

What are you reading over the holidays?

*A big hearty thank you to Garth Wade at Regional and Tom Minas at Clovis for mocking their supervisors on camera. Directors Drenda Montgomery and Brenda Diel – you both are role models of supervisory wisdom!  Thanks for helping me illustrate this tale.  Happy Holidays!

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*This blog was originally posted on Community Medical Center’s Blog – It Takes Community.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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Thanksgiving was lovely.  The Ina Garten recipe I used to make the turkey and stuffing turned out beautifully, the weather was gorgeous and I had the chance to indulge in one of my favorite past times – watching a great story told on film.  The Hunger Games Catching Fire box office sales reportedly topped $200 million in its first six days, and nine of those dollars were mine.

At first I was caught up in the real story.  Katniss Everdeen, who had survived the Hunger Games in book one is now suffering posttraumatic stress syndrome.  In a twist of fate, she must join her faux love interest Peeta, to go back into the game and kill or be killed.  But as I thought about it on the drive home, it came to me that her survival skills could work just as well in our everyday work lives.

It’s difficult to kill people once you know them 

Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathy, a hard-liquor drinking, yoda-like mentor who tells Katniss that she better form an alliance with a couple of the other more experienced players or she’ll surely be killed.  This is smart advice right?  The world runs on relationships. What if we employed Katniss’s strategy at work, by sharing more of our authentic self with the people with whom we work.  Or giving compassion to people we know are struggling to avoid the poison fog. It would cause people to pause. There might be better teamwork, less blaming, more fun and less stress.  If you had to choose someone to get to know better at work, who would it be?

Prepare to fight but refuse to shoot first  

In one scene, Katniss draws her bow and arrow on a fellow fighter who pleads with her not to shoot him by saying, “Remember who the real enemy is.”   She had honed her skills and could take him down, but instead lowers her bow.  Showing restraint and emotional intelligence when things are tense is one of the most sought after skills in business.  Are you as empowered and confident as Katniss?  If not, whom can you trust to help you develop this skill?

Beware of the baboons

I just had to mention the baboons.  At one point I embarrassed myself by screaming like a little girl when one of the raging creatures charged our heroine.   But beyond my fear of angry monkeys, a message is buried here.   Fear is way too common in the workplace.  We fear failure.  We fear the people we report to.  We fear we’re not smart enough. We fear someone will find out we are imposters.  What’s your personal baboon?  What fear is keeping you from peak performance at work, or finding contentment and happiness?

Remember the lightening strikes at noon and midnight

Toward the end of the movie we discover that the lightening is a signal that a threat is coming. You know, the regular stuff…blood rain, floods, angry baboons.   But our fighters also figure out that there is a pattern – that the lightening strikes at specific intervals of time.  Being able to recognize patterns and respond to them is a skill that helped Katniss survive.   Managing change and having hope, even when times are uncertain, is as necessary for our survival at work as the bow was to Katniss.  How well do you deal with change?  What techniques can you use to better manage stress?

Take time to relax, spend time with friends and family, and take in some entertainment over the holidays.  If you watched the Hunger Games or took in another movie, share your review and anything you learned about yourself.  Happy Holidays.

(This post originally appeared on the Community Medical Centers website in a blog titled “It Takes Community”.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen )

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There are a lot of adjectives that could describe Truong Nguyen (pronounced Joon Win).  He is a clinical systems analyst at Community Regional, a former Asian vegetable farmer, a great father to daughter Jessica and twin boys Justin and Travis, an avid boating enthusiast, a cancer survivor and an expert in the eco system of salt-water aquariums.  So, in one all encompassing word – Truong is an entrepreneur. Image

He credits his work ethic and drive to his father Tho Van and his mother Quan.   “My mom is my hero,” he said as we sipped iced green tea at the Starbucks at Cedar and Shepherd.  She owned restaurants in Vietnam, but in 1980 when a new communist constitution was being adopted, the family decided to leave for the United States.  He arrived at the age of five along with his six brothers and sisters and his parents, who were expecting another child.  No one spoke English.  Shortly after arriving in San Francisco, they moved to Clovis and into a small three-bedroom house  near DeWitt and Sierra to be close to family.  “We had nine people sharing one bathroom,” Truong said with a smile.  “I remember being really happy there.”

To pay the bills, everybody worked.  “We were the Fresno Bee family,” Truong joked.  “At 4 a.m. everyone would get up to fold newspapers and then we’d all deliver.”  But the newspaper business didn’t provide enough cash to care for a large family, so his mother, whose keen eye saw a market niche, started growing Asian vegetables in their garage.  Veggies like bitter melon, which Truong said is ‘really really bitter,’ bok choy, Chinese okra, daikon, long beans, moqua, singua, Thai chili, and lemon grass.  Demand was so great; they outgrew the garage and built a greenhouse.  Then they outgrew the greenhouse and leased some land.  Until one day the Nguyen’s purchased a farm.

At the age of 17, Truong was managing the operation. At 19 he bought 15 acres from his parents and took over all the financial and operational duties, including daily and sometimes twice daily deliveries to Sacramento.  You’d think that this would keep him busy enough.  But in the winter, when things slowed down, Truong decided to take computer science classes.  As I listened to his story, I was awed by his humility, sense of humor, resilience and willingness to tackle big challenges.

“How did you get interested in tropical fish?” I asked.   Around the age of sixteen he fell in love with fishing when he accompanied his uncle to the pond at Woodward Park.  He also became mesmerized by salt-water aquariums, and explained, “This is an expensive hobby.”  So, in what seems to be a normal pattern of inventiveness, Truong discovered that he could buy used aquariums and then sell the parts for enough money to cover the cost of outfitting his entire tank.  “The ability to hammer a nickel into ten cents – I get that from my mom,” he said with a smile.

“I’ve heard it’s pretty tough to keep a salt water tank going”, I commented.   “Not really,” Truong responded.   What he explained next seems like a playbook for keeping clown fish and corals, but also to building healthy teams.

Steps to keeping your Eco-System healthy:

  • Keep it simple & create a consistent environment: “Consistent environments help fish thrive,” Truong said.  “Inconsistent environments wreak havoc.”  Teams also thrive in environments that are fair and consistent.
  • In a crisis, take it slow: “When a mistake happens, make small changes slowly versus big changes quickly,” counseled Truong.  That way the fish don’t get shocked and sickened by big chemical changes.  Coming from the Midwest, this advice also mirrors what my father told me to do if my car started to slide on ice.
  • Promote Diversity:  Truong said it’s best to keep multiple species with multiple colors and shapes together.  The more diversity, the less fighting over territory!  How true.  We all want to be valued for what we bring to the table.
  • Create a community of symbiotic relationships:  An eco system thrives when organisms depend on one another, Truong said.  As evidence of this he refers to his cleaner shrimp.  The other fish in the tank just instinctively sidle up to the cleaner shrimp when they get the disease called “ick”, so that the shrimp can scrub them clean.  Teams can also get “ick.”  We’ve all been there!  So we need to identify and stick close to the people in our groups who can rub off the bad stuff and get everyone smiling and engaged.

How healthy is your eco-system?  If you love the team you are on, share some of what makes your environment healthy and fun.  If you have suggestions about how to make teamwork better, let us know.  If you know Truong and just want to recognize him for his support of your team, you can add that too.  Add a reply with your name and you’ll receive a package of yummy goldfish crackers.Image

Thanks Truong for sharing your story!

(This post originally appeared on the Community Medical Centers website in a blog titled “It Takes Community”.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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