Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Who's Got The Mustard & the Kidney?"

Ever been camping, about to have some hot dogs around the campfire, and someone asks, “Who's got the mustard?”
“Oh,” the cook says, “I forgot it.” OK, so hot dogs without mustard won’t kill you. It could annoy you and take away some of the enjoyment of your cookout, but it’s not that bad. It’s just a minor inconvenience.
The simple solution would have been to have, well in advance of your trip, a “Camping Checklist” with everything you need on it, and then as you gather your supplies, you just check off each item, mustard being just one of them.
Ever have a kidney taken out of your body and replaced with a newer, healthier one? Most likely not—and neither have I. But in an unnamed Midwest hospital’s operating room, a doctor was about to remove his patient’s damaged kidney and replace it with a donor’s kidney, when he suddenly realized the donor’s kidney wasn’t in the room!
Where was it? No one knew. One surgical nurse thought the other surgical nurse had gotten it. The surgeon stopped the procedure. Finally the kidney was located and fortunately no harm was done.
Crazy, you say? Impossible, you think? Amazingly enough it happens way too often in medical procedures and sometimes the results are devastating.
I became aware of this situation when a long time client, Donley Service, hired me to speak at their company meeting. Their objective was to get their HVAC service technicians to use checklists on every job.
As good as Donley Service already was, top management wanted them to be even better, and they knew that checklists could be part of the answer.
During my research for their meeting I found “The Checklist Manifesto,” a best selling book by Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. Along with this book and lots of other information, I became even more committed to checklists.
People close to me would roll their eyes if they heard me say “even more committed to checklists!” Heck, I use a checklist for almost everything in my life!

Are you a checklist person? If you are you know the joy of embarking on a project and having everything you need with you. If you’re not a written checklist person, you might need to become one. It can help make your life’s experiences so much better. Oh, and if you do use checklists, there’s a lot more you can do to make them even better.
As a professional speaker I have a Travel Checklist—what I need when I leave home to speak in some distant city. There’s a Room Set-Up Checklist, a Client Checklist, a Post Presentation Checklist where I check off every story, humorous example, prop or activity I used in that presentation. Why? So that when I go back to that same group next time, I’ll know exactly what I’ve already used and not repeat anything.
I use a checklist for our recreation as well. Judy and I have owned our own 72 ft houseboat at Lake Powell since 1989. We have spent over 1250 nights on our boat … with my checklists! We have a Packing Checklist, Arrival Day on the Boat Checklist, an Anchoring Checklist, a Guest Info Checklist and a Departure Day Checklist. Each checklist has lots of items. On our Departure Day Checklist there are over 70 items we physically check off on the last day of our trip. Why do we do that? So the next trip will be even better!
Yes, I’m a checklist nut! Unfortunately not too many people are, but maybe more people should be—and if you’re not convinced, keep reading.
It’s shocking to learn that the use of medical checklists has only become a recent practice. It wasn’t until 2003 that medical checklists were used in surgical operating rooms in the state of Michigan.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, when surgical teams used a simple checklist, patient deaths were cut in half and complications due to infections were reduced by 66%. In Michigan alone it’s estimated that over 1500 patients’ lives were saved, just by using a Surgical Checklist.
One more example, Peter Pronovost, a critical care specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, devised a five-step checklist just for reducing infections from special intravenous lines, from such simple items as “wash hands with soap” to “wear a sterile gown and mask.”
Now you may be thinking, “Oh, come on, how basic can you get? Anyone would know that!” Right? Not so in that facility. When Dr. Pronovost checked the results over a two-year period compared to previous two-year periods, he found that his five-step cChecklist prevented 43 infections and eight deaths, and saved over $2 million in costs.
Based on those startling statistics, the World Health Organization tested the checklist concept in eight hospitals worldwide. They created a 19-Point Checklist including “count sponges.” You’ve heard of sponges being left inside a patient after an operation, right? Not when they use the checklist! Now if they have 17 sponges to start, they have to have 17 when done. Their results showed that as a result…
·    Surgical complications fell 36%.
·    Extra trips to the operating room fell by 25%.
·    Deaths fell 47%!
And those results changed medical procedures worldwide.
Decide now to become a Checklist Creator for the important things in your life! Here are a few suggestions:
·    A Vacation to the Beach Checklist
·    A Ski Trip Checklist
·    A Fishing Trip Checklist
·    A Gardening Checklist (What to do and when to do it.)
·    Giving a Speech Checklist (I can help you with this one.)
·    An Emergency Evacuation Checklist - If you had to exit your home in
15 minutes, what would you grab? Not sure?

     Better make a checklist!
And MAKE it a great day!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leadership & the Paradox of Power

In 1513 Niccolo Machiavelli wrote these two bold statements: “It is much better to be feared than loved” and “One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.” These two quotes come from his well-known thesis on the art of politics, called The Prince. His philosophy has given rise to the Machiavellian approach to leadership and the cliché, “Nice guys finish last!” Do you think so? From your experience and the leaders you have known, how do you rate them on the “nice person scale”?
Think back to the people you have met who had power. Start with the bosses you’ve worked for, the political office holders you’ve personally met and the friends and acquaintances you’ve spent time with who were in a position of power.

OK, now decide, does power create caring, considerate and charming people—or does it create insufferable, impulsive idiots you just can’t stand?
Back in 2010 an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Power Trip” by Jonah  Lehrer began with this statement: “Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power.” Well, I guess that settles it. Machiavelli was wrong and nice people do rise to the top.
But wait! In the next sentence Jonah says, “Then something strange happens—authority atrophies the very talents that got them to their place of power.” Oh, was Machiavelli right after all?
You’re smart and experienced, so you can decide for yourself. Here’s my read on this important question for you to answer as you progress in your career and your personal life.
Over the past 3½ decades I’ve personally met hundreds of CEOs and presidents of the world’s leading businesses, as well as thousands of top level executives with lots of power. Plus dozens of famous people from politics, sports, entertainment and the sciences.
Most of these encounters were at business events where I was a guest speaker. Many others occurred on airplanes sitting next to celebrities. Of course, I’m not a psychologist or a behaviorist, but I do know people, and without a doubt, my vote is cast with the anti-Machiavellian group. “Nice people do rise to the top!”
Are there exceptions? Absolutely! There are many insufferable, impulsive, self-centered, arrogant and obnoxious individuals who hold positions of power. They once were only a small group—but—they seem to be growing, and that’s why you need to be aware of the power trip!
Today in our world of electronic wonders where words and images can be captured and stored forever on hard drives, secrets are difficult to keep.
Remember Tiger Woods, Brett Favre and Wikileak’s release of government secrets? All involved emails, voice mails, cell phone photos and electronic data. So beware, because what you say and what you do can be seen and heard by a much bigger audience than you might intend or even imagine.
A cliché from the past, “power corrupts,” comes into play here. Often the individual who rises to a position of power—whether it’s in a company, a homeowner’s association, a civic club, a religious organization, in politics or on a sports team—does so because of their positive qualities of being intelligent, honest, considerate, caring, and just overall a “nice person.” Then it gradually changes. The very traits that helped these people acquire control in the first place, all but disappear once they rise to a position of power.
The result is what we see, almost weekly, in the media. Celebrities and heroes go amuck! They think the rules don’t apply to them. They think they’re special and because they’re “special” others aren’t. They disregard feelings, traditions, standards of behavior and, in short, they act like jerks.
A study at the University of California by psychologist D. Keltner found that the students who were considered the “most powerful” also were considered the most considerate, outgoing, agreeable and, in short, “nice people.” His conclusion after similar studies in the corporate world was, “People give authority to people they genuinely like.”
Here’s what you can do…
  1. Decide for yourself, was Machiavelli right or wrong?
  2. Study those in your life that are in positions of power and authority, and identify the qualities you think got them there.
  3. Make sure that if your role is one of power and authority, you don’t lose your concern for and connection to those you’re leading.
Oh, one last perception from my own experience. I’ve found that the higher you go in most organizations, the nicer the people become. What’s your perception?