Blog post

CEO Parking Only

27 February 2020

For the past few years, I’ve made it my routine to go to Starbucks for a Café Latte or a cup of hot tea. Every time I patronized one particular location, I drove past a business with a parking lot sign that read, “CEO Parking Only”.

This sign was troubling to me as it didn’t send the right message to employees and customers. Although not intentional, the sign promoting special treatment for the CEO did not convey a “customer first” mentality.

Every time I drove past this sign, it reminded me of a planning session from a hospital I had the pleasure of leading.

We were embarking upon a $100+ Million construction project for our campus. The architects were eagerly seeking employee and physician input on important aspects of the expansion. Although clearly not as exciting as the ideation sessions for new clinical spaces, patient room design and other interior aesthetics, we were encouraged to think carefully about the configurations for the redeveloped parking lots.

I shall never forget that during a particular planning session with physicians, a proposal was presented that showed physician parking close to the entry of a medical office building. This was a common practice for healthcare facilities, and it represented a continuation of the norm for our campus.

One physician shared his frustration that patients walked farther than doctors to gain access to the facility. He lamented that many of these patients were not in good physical condition, and it concerned him to see them struggle as they walked to the building. The physician acknowledged the need for several parking spaces to be designated for doctors who would be called in for emergent situations. And then he made a passionate plea. “Patients will be grateful for a thoughtful medical staff that puts patient needs first. Let’s move physician parking farther out and let patients have the top priority spaces!”

Long story short… as a result of that planning session, physician and administrator parking was moved, and patients received the priority spaces they needed and deserved. To my knowledge, not one single physician complained about this change that could have been perceived by some as an inconvenience.

What an important message this action sent to our patients, our employees and to the community. This departure from the status quo took place because one young physician had the courage to speak up when asked for feedback. Through his fresh insight, he easily convinced his colleagues to do the right thing by living our “patients first” philosophy, even with parking.  

As you guide your teams to peak performance, be mindful of the need to ask for feedback from your employees and other key stakeholders. Just remember that those who are closest to the front line will likely have the optimal view of your customers’ reality. And it is new stakeholders who are best equipped to bring a fresh perspective.

Encourage your team members on an ongoing basis to challenge the status quo. Just because, “We’ve always done it that way” is not good enough for today, and it’s certainly inadequate for tomorrow.

Have the courage to challenge old practices. In so doing, your team can create excitement internally and send the right message to your external stakeholders who have the choice of becoming (and remaining) your customers.

As for the “CEO Parking Only” sign, I noticed when I drove by this week that THE SIGN IS GONE! While I have no idea what prompted the removal, hats off to this organization for making this needed change. I’m confident that I am not the only Starbucks patron to have noticed!

For more insights on tools and techniques for seeking feedback from your stakeholders, be sure to read the chapter entitled “Gracious Leaders Seek Feedback” within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before. The book is available on Amazon in hardback, Kindle and Audible.

1 comment

  • John

    February 29, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Great chapter! I think it also applies to physician vs nurse parking in hospitals. As employees, most nurses are relegated to second class status so physicians, irrespective of their longevity in their careers or loyalty to the hospital, park closer. Nurses must walk through a forest of “physician only” parking signs threatening being towed, reinforcing the notion of, “physicians are more important than our nurses” mentality. Privilege is alive and well in healthcare. Let’s treat our employees with grace and compassion, too.

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