Good customer service is universal in healthcare – no matter where you call home

Through the years, I have been in healthcare leadership positions located in settings that are as culturally diverse as they are geographically. Areas as different as the temperate and sunny but traffic congested city of Los Angeles; the quiet, and beautiful but often resource scarce, farm and ranchland of rural Oklahoma; and the exciting but very crowded international commercial center of Shanghai, China.

What I have found from living and working in these places and becoming acquainted with so many beautiful, but seemingly very different and diverse people, is that healthcare consumers are not as different as they first appear.

What I have discovered is that healthcare consumers are customers and that when you boil everything down, what they want is the same as any other customer. They all want convenience, short waiting times, cleanliness, comfort, safety, respect, courtesy, organization, competency, honesty, confidentiality, clear communication and good results.

I realize the aforementioned customer preference descriptors are very common and general in nature and maybe not very helpful unless they can be translated into understandable specifics which can then be implemented into the daily actions and behaviors of our organization. We want to put them on an operational improvement check list and then check them off one by one. If is tangible, concrete and it feels good to check those boxes; a feeling of tangible accomplishment. But I have found that as important as the tangible operational improvement check list is, what is more important are the intangibles and how do we make our customers feel. Because like it or not the bottom line for our organization’s brand and image and ultimately the very success of its mission is how do our customers feel after they use our services and how does this compare to how they felt before they entered our doors.

We are all emotional beings with numerous feelings inside, so how our customers feel after visiting us is not just about their physical condition but also about their emotional and mental well-being. Operationally there are many things we can do to address and improve the tangible parts of our facilities and make the lobbies more beautiful, the front desks and hallways tidier, the furniture more comfortable, the rooms quieter and more private, the medical information secure and confidential, etc., etc.., but what about the intangibles? How do we make our customers feel respected, feel cared for, feel heard, feel important? How do we make our customers feel that we will take care of them and thus make them want to come back again?

Healthcare is still a service industry, not a manufacturing industry. Operational efficiency will only take us so far. Customer Service is created by the people inside our facilities, by what we do and how we do it. In other words, it is dictated and driven by “Our Culture” and as the famous business management guru, Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats Strategy for dinner every time.”

Culture drives everything and comes from the top down. Putting customers first, caring for them, respecting them, listening to them, must be exemplified by the leadership team not just in word, but in action. And not just shown by the way we as leaders treat our customers but also in how we treat our staff. I made a commitment to speak at every opportunity to all new hires in my hospital during their Orientation, and one thing I said I had learned is we must treat our staff the same way we want them to treat our patients. We cannot care for our patients if we do not care for each other. And our kindness and compassion must be genuine. People cannot be fooled with fake kindness or slight-of-hand courtesy. We must never be so busy that we do not make our customers - our patients and our staff the #1 priority in action and deed.

Creating an authentic customer service-oriented culture that genuinely cares is not easy, but it is what I have found to be the single most important and strongest driver for operational, financial and marketing success of every hospital team I have ever had the pleasure and privilege to lead, whether in Los Angeles, Rural Oklahoma or Shanghai, China.

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Career Lattice vs Career Ladder

Last week when the guest speaker in my Organizational Behavior class mentioned “career lattice”, I saw many quizzical expressions on my student’s faces. I realized, where other industries have adopted this method of talent development and retention, the healthcare industry largely lags. Part of the reason is the level of specialization, training, and even licensure requirements in certain roles. Certain skills need to be honed over time and you get better at your “trade” the longer time you spend in it. This can and has, however, led to burnout in many healthcare professionals leading to a talent drain. Healthcare is now one of the largest employers in the country, so it is time we paid attention to breaking stereotypes. The hierarchical career ladder has always been around and may have worked well in the past. But as more and more professionals look towards versatile and rewarding careers, while still maintaining a semblance of balance and flexibility, the concept of a career lattice makes much more sense that it ever has. The other limiting factor is our definition of career growth. We mostly tie it to a title or compensation, making it very prescriptive and limiting our options. But how about expanding your professional toolkit or repertoire, getting outside your comfort zone to challenge your abilities, utilizing your skills and experience in a different area – is that not a growth opportunity? Sometimes to take a step ahead, you may need to take a few steps back or sideways!

Though it may not be applicable in some specialized niches, it is important that healthcare organizations explore and adopt the concept where high potential employees are given growth opportunities to explore other roles and develop new competencies. We know that changing an individual’s attitude or behavior based on an organization’s culture is a much harder journey than teaching new skills and competencies. They why lose a professional who has become an integral part of the organization due to a lack of opportunities? In some industries, it is the norm for professionals to remain in their roles only for a couple years before they move into another role. This enhances employee engagement, retention and loyalty, while ensuring a steady pipeline of motivated individuals within the organization to fill critical vacancies. It also significantly reduces the costs associated with recruitment. What are some best practices that healthcare can adopt? Most healthcare organizations are accustomed to matrix structures, so opportunities are plentiful.

When I look at my own career path, it has certainly been a lattice. I planned to get to the “top” and the quickest way was the hierarchical ladder. It was a competitive rat race. I wanted to remain in hospital operations as that was the world I knew, loved and thrived in. I exceled and did achieve my career goals becoming a hospital CEO. But that also got me to a crossroads in my personal life. I loved my work, but I also loved my growing family and had to make some difficult career choices to give both my best. What I have learned through my experience is to keep your options open and never be afraid to take risks. The adage “greater the risk, greater the reward” maybe cliched but is so true! What I feared to have been career suicide (stepping down from my first CEO role) launched my career into a very different and equally rewarding path! So, whether your organization supports a career lattice or not, don’t be wary to explore it in your own career journey and seek out opportunities that help round your experiences and not typecast you or limit your options. Be creative and enjoy the journey. It is not a race so why not take the scenic route?

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Leadership Key: Impact Conversations

By Joy W. Goldman | Leadership Coaching

In the March, 2017 newsletter, I introduced the topic of trust and highlighted five ways leaders increase trust in their organizations. Today, I wanted to provide an overview of two very practical tools that can be used to engender trust in ALL relationships, regardless of how challenging you may find some to be:

Conversational Intelligence and Polarity Thinking

You can deepen your learning on Polarities during an upcoming Wiederhold & Associates webinar on Aug 1.

Wiederhold & Associates Webinar
August 1, 2017 - "Polarity Thinking"

Register ASAP to obtain needed pre-work for this interactive webinar

Click to pay Registration Fee

No Fee For Premium Active Network Members and current clients.

For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Judith Glaser in her book, Conversational Intelligence, asserts that ALL work is conducted through conversations. Think about it! Is there anything you do that does not involve a conversation? From a pure productivity perspective, think about the time you could save if most of your conversations were impactful.

During July’s webinar, Cliff Kayser and James McKenna, two phenomenal executive coaches, illustrated in their usual humorous way, one element of effective conversations: The power of leveraging Inquiry AND Advocacy: two critical leadership competencies. The May/June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review included an article that talked about four key attributes that distinguished high performing CEOs: the ability to be decisive was one of them. As a leader, “telling,” and “advocacy” is essential in certain circumstances.

The most powerful leaders know how to leverage advocacy AND inquiry, and they know when they’re being effective, and when they risk derailment. Signs of an overuse of advocacy may include noticing that they are doing most of the talking and others aren’t offering their opinions; leaders may notice that their audience seems less engaged. In the extreme, they may also notice that not too many people are following them!

Glaser’s levels I and II conversations consist of “telling,” or using questions that are geared toward eliciting what the leader already knows to be true. They are using inquiry but only with a goal to validate their own thinking. Glaser discusses the more powerful level III conversation that is focused on “Sharing And Discovery.” Level III conversations ask questions for which the leader doesn’t know the answer to the question.

    Sample discovery questions include:
  1. Sample discovery questions include:
  2. What matters most to you right now?
  3. To resolve this conflict successfully, what would need to occur for you?
  4. Tell me what I might not be seeing or understanding right now?
  5. If we couldn’t fail, what would we be doing right now?
  6. If we could better leverage Safety AND Risk, how might we better serve our customers/ community?

When leaders ask questions that come from a place of curiosity, we tap into our audience’s prefrontal cortex and quiet their amygdala, the primitive part of our brain, which kicks into high gear when we feel threatened. Creativity and trust come from our prefrontal cortex: through sharing and discovery conversations.

In healthcare, our habit is to look for problems. Simple problems often have a right or wrong answer. Complex problems/ situations rarely do and are better served by leveraging interdependent tensions or pairs: polarities. Come to the webinar in August to learn more about leveraging Inquiry AND Advocacy.

    In future newsletters, we’ll also explore other healthcare tensions like:
  • Mission AND Margin
  • Confidence AND Humility
  • Centralization AND Decentralization
  • Standardization AND Customization

I look forward to our next conversation!

Joy W. Goldman RN, MS, PCC, PDC
Executive Director, Leadership Coaching
Wiederhold & Associates

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The Secret Source of Great Leadership

When I picture a great leader, I picture someone who never lets their temper get out of control, no matter what problems they are facing. I think of someone who has the complete trust of their staff, listens to their team, is easy to talk to, and always makes carefully informed decisions.

What I have described is an emotionally intelligent leader.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be keenly aware of your own emotions, and the emotions of those around you. These individuals are aware of the root cause of their emotions and how their emotions affect those around them.

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize Emotional Intelligence (EI),
there are five main elements of emotional intelligence:

Self-awareness --- Self-regulation --- Motivation
Empathy --- Social skills

The more that you, as a leader, manage each of these areas, the higher your emotional intelligence.

To be effective, leaders must have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect the people around them. The better a leader relates to and works with others, the more successful he or she will be. The good news is, Emotional intelligence can intentionally be developed.

We are facing a critical era of transformation in healthcare and success is entirely dependent upon strong leadership. As you rise through the leadership ranks you must master Emotional Intelligence as a key component if you hope to become a great leader.

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Improving Trust Through Conversational Intelligence

It is my passion to equip people with the tools it takes to be successful. With that in mind, I have assembled a team of leaders that will help you gain the competitive edge you are looking for. One of the members of my coaching team is Joy Goldman.

Joy is an accomplished professional in leadership, physician development, coaching, and enhancing organizational effectiveness. I feel that you will find her insights useful and helpful.


By Joy W. Goldman, RN, MS, PCC, Professionally Certified Leadership Coach

Research shows that 9 in 10 conversations miss the mark. Sometimes people may say to you, “I don’t have time to spend in deep conversations – they take too long.” By mastering Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ), what normally could take months or even years, can happen instantaneously. Below are three significant ways that Conversational Intelligence can impact your leadership success:

  • Enables quicker, deeper connections. We see higher levels of trust, of partnering, and of teamwork. Our world is moving from an I-centric world (focused on self and independent leader) to a WE-centric world (focused on teams and collaboration).
  • Provides frameworks for building TRUST. Trust is the human platform from which great conversations emerge. Patrick Lencioni identifies trust as the foundation for all effective teams. C-­IQ provides a new innovative framework for understanding how conversations shape our relationships, partnerships, our culture and our reality. C-­IQ introduces tools for creating higher levels of trust and higher levels of engagement, which strengthens partnerships, teams, and cultures.
  • A scientifically proven method for improving engagement. Based on Neuroscience Research- specifically the Neuroscience of Conversations, C-IQ facilitates the accomplishment of results, while also fostering enjoyment with the process.

C-­IQ provides us with deep understanding about how every conversation has an impact ­on our brain. With this understanding, we can prime our conversations for impact and learn how to develop trusted relationships. Building trust comes from practicing inquiry. Click here to read an article on applying self-inquiry to achieve your goals.

Would you like to learn how to master conversational intelligence or other enhanced communication skills? Contact Joy today.

Joy W. Goldman RN, MS, PCC This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Character Creates Leadership Success

Leadership is such a broad subject with many important subcategories.

We are in a time of great challenge to our leaders both inside and outside of healthcare. Great challenge creates great stress. Our leaders live and work in a fishbowl and must realize that every move they make whether it's verbal or nonverbal will be noticed and analyzed.

Good leadership, as with anything else, starts with character. Everybody wants it, but it has so many definitions. Everybody sees a lack of it in others but not in themselves.

I'm in the process of reading the book, "Louder than Words," by Andy Stanley. I'm not finished with the book but I'm enthralled with the subject matter. It focuses on the definition of character. Because I'm faith-based, I will adhere to Andy's following definition:

Character is the will to do what is right, as defined by God, regardless of personal cost.

So easily stated, it's so difficult to achieve. Perhaps it's like mastery, we strive for it, but never get there. For others who are not faith oriented, I would suggest defining what the right thing is but not changing the second half of the definition.

Leadership Starts Here: Doing the Right Thing

Secondarily, leaders did not get to where they are today without utilizing strengths that have made them successful. But under stress, those same strengths can become weaknesses. Beyond that, everyone has certain "derailers" that can be triggered by stress as well as other influencers. By giving into these triggers, the ability to keep good character intact becomes difficult.

Recognition, or awareness, of the "derailers" is not always present within the leader. Leaders should develop feedback mechanisms that they can rely on and will accept. Gaining awareness of these triggers/influencers is a highly valuable personal investment. Once these triggers are identified, passionately pursue how to change them.

In stressful challenging times, these two components are essential to successful long-term leadership.

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Become the Leader You Were Meant to Be

After 21 + years in the career development business, I have seen the unique skill sets required for effective healthcare leaders. One key I have discovered is that effective leaders are continuous learners who never stop growing and developing their skills and talents.

I have found important learning traits that effective leaders require:

  • New levels of perception and insight into the realities of the world and also into themselves
  • Extraordinary levels of motivation to go through the inevitable pain of learning and change
  • The emotional strength to manage their own and others' anxiety as learning and change become more and more a way of life
  • New skills in analyzing and changing cultural assumptions
  • The willingness and ability to involve others and elicit their participation
  • The ability to learn the assumptions of a whole new organizational culture

An essential part of effective leadership and growth is networking. Wiederhold & Associates has developed the most in-depth premium network of senior healthcare professionals in the country. The Premium Active Network program was developed for individuals who see the value of networking, gaining visibility in the industry and building mutually beneficial relationships.

At Wiederhold & Associates, we are a leading provider of career development, transition services and executive coaching to the healthcare industry. We help individuals and organizations with the tools and resources to develop and sustain exceptional leadership performance. Through networking and coaching, we are always focused on relationship building with a personal touch.

Throughout the year, I will be sending periodic communications through email and social media that will keep you informed of topics on leadership effectiveness and managing your career for a lifetime.

Here’s to your success!


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Soft Skills, the Other Half of the Equation

In 2013, I will celebrate 20 years of being an entrepreneur. In 1993 when we started our focus was on the recruiting side, but over the years our business has become strictly focused on transition. It was initially only external transition, but now involves internal transition as well as executive coaching. A very wise person once said to me, “since you know so much about why people separate or fail in their careers/jobs, why don't you take that information and also use it to help people stay gainfully employed?” We listened and that's when we started the executive coaching part of the program.

In those years, as I worked with executives and senior managers it became apparent to me why in most cases people separate from their organizations. And when I say separation, I am focusing on individuals that have been on some level asked to leave or left through mutual agreement. Those reasons have little to do with performance and understanding the task at hand or having the technical skills to execute their jobs, but around what I would label “soft skills”. Soft skills would include things such as communication, listening, emotional intelligence, messaging, relationship building, and conflict resolution. In most cases as we tracked back their last 60 to 90 days of employment, it became apparent that, first, this was no surprise and second, it had more to do with key relationships and politics.

My job is all about talking with people and the majority of them, despite rising high in the organization, are very much focused on task. I by no means, am saying that that is not important, but it is only half the equation. The other half is the soft skills. And then the next question becomes: why do we not pay attention? Here are some of my observations over the years; this is by no means a comprehensive list:

  • Do not see it as important
  • Are not comfortable with the soft skills
  • They are difficult to measure
  • They are the first thing to be neglected in a stressful situation

My point is this: life is about balance and one must strike a balance between achievement and mastering the soft skills. If people would do that, they would be in much greater control of their own destiny career-wise. It's time to start paying attention or continue to repeat the past.

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