Last week my husband and I were out for a routine bike ride. We were waiting to cross a busy road. The traffic signal changed, indicating it was safe for us to proceed. As we were riding across this busy thoroughfare, a car turned left in front of us. The driver was not watching, and she clearly did not see us. No doubt she was in her own world… her zone in which she was solely focused on her agenda as opposed to being mindful of what else was going on around her. Thankfully, we were aware of our environment, and we avoided harm.
How easy it is for us to get into a zone in the workplace. We quickly get sucked into our routines and become so focused on our own agendas and what we must accomplish that we develop blind spots as to what our employees are experiencing.
When I was a hospital president, I made it my practice to shadow employees and physicians so I could observe the realities of their daily work. This commitment to shadow forced me to get out of my zone and to see the broader environment from the perspective of our staff.
As I literally walked a mile in the shoes of nurses, my eyes were opened widely as to the challenges they faced. Shadowing Emergency Room physicians on the third shift gave me a clearer perspective regarding the wide variation in the care they provided. And shadowing a Nutrition Services employee gave me a bird’s eye view of the inadequacy of our kitchen space and equipment. In the latter case, this observation resulted in our tripling the size of the kitchen and dining facilities, allowing our staff to provide vastly improved food and better service to our patients and staff.
Businesses throughout the world have been adversely impacted by Covid-19, resulting in rampant restructuring and layoffs. Employees at all levels must now do more with less, and as such, they are facing challenges like never before. During these unprecedented times, leaders may have a greater propensity to get absorbed in the busyness of their business. This is precisely when well-intentioned leaders can find themselves in a zone where they become less aware of the ever-increasing struggles of their staff.
In Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before I talk about the importance of Shadowing as an important way to show employees they are respected. Through Shadowing, leaders in any industry have a great opportunity to empathize with their employees at all levels and in so doing, to identify ways to become a better place to work.
Whether you commit to watch out for cyclists on your way home or if you promise to incorporate Shadowing within your To Do List at work, becoming more aware of your broader environment shows others that you seek to empathize with them and that you respect them.
What one thing will you commit to do today to get out of your zone and to become a fully respectful, peak performance leader?