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  • Susan Snedaker

Lean Leader #2 - Respect Every Individual

“When people feel respected, they give far more than their hands—they give their minds and hearts as well.”

Shingo Institute,

Respect is something everyone wants and needs. To feel respected means to feel that one’s ideas, opinions, actions, behaviors, and contributions matter.

Respect in Patient Care

In healthcare, we talk a lot about respecting our patients, behaving in a respectful manner. We know that things like introducing ourselves to patients and their families when we enter the room, explaining why we are there, indicating how long it will take and asking if we may proceed are all indicators of respect for the individual. This extends out to how we treat each other in healthcare.

Do we respect the people who clean patient rooms, order supplies from vendors, work in accounting, repair the toilets, set up our conference rooms, prepare patient meals, maintain the computers, staff the gift shop, address patient billing questions, or trim the trees outside?

Do we respect the people we work with on a daily basis?

Respect in Healthcare IT

As a healthcare IT leader, our work is not directly with the patient, but showing respect for those we interact with supports a culture of kindness and respect, which seeps into every corner of the organization (unfortunately, so does the opposite, meanness and bullying). Leaders’ words and actions matter – often more than we realize. Our actions inform and infuse the culture. It is our choice as to whether we spread respect or arrogance, kindness or bullying.

What Respect Looks Like

So here’s what respect for the individual in healthcare IT looks like:

  1. Respect for the mission, vision and values of the organization

  2. Respect for the leaders of the organization

  3. Respect for your peers throughout the organization

  4. Respect for your team

  5. Respect for the person on your team who made an honest mistake

  6. Respect for the person who you think is kind of odd

  7. Respect for the person with whom you vehemently disagree

  8. Respect for the person you just really don’t like

That can be a tall order – which is why it’s called leadership. The first five might be relatively easy for you, but what about 6, 7, and 8? Not so easy sometimes.

Respect does not mean agreeing with, caving into, or kowtowing to. Respect means listening and trying to put yourself in another’s position to understand why they hold the opinions they do, why they act as they do and how you can find common ground to achieve extraordinary results. Respect means valuing the unique contributions each person brings to the team.

Respect in Lean

Respect for every individual in Lean means understanding that everyone brings an important perspective. What they know, what their experience has taught them, what they have learned on the job, how they perform their job, the opinions they have about how things are working and most importantly, what can be improved. 'Leadership' that dictates from the top rarely is successful. Yes, you can dictate results and get compliance, but you cannot sustain those improvements. If you engage with the people doing the work, if you listen with an open mind, ask clarifying questions, provide guidance instead of dictates, you are showing respect for what every individual brings to the organization. You hired them for a reason, right? So leverage that by respecting what they know and what they do.

Respectful Behavior is the Foundation

I do not profess to be a Lean expert. Like many, I am on a journey, trying to learn and incorporate various elements of Lean in my leadership and in my organization. Respect for every individual is a baseline for achieving any kind of improved result, whether you are on a Lean journey or not. It is a fundamental requirement for success.

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