Part I: Recognizing when the lessons of the past hold you back from a successful future
Frequently, I support organizations as an interim executive to either start something or to repair something. I’ve learned along the way that a lot of folks are unwilling to take that first step because of their perceptions or opinions learned from what they experienced in the past.
It’s part of human nature to remember the pain from the past. In fact, that skillful memory has been vital to our evolution as humans… We learn, early, ”don’t touch the hot stove…” and, once we learn that lesson, the question becomes “why go near that stove again when there is a whole world around you to explore?” Those are valid questions.
In particular, I was working with an organization needing to restructure its governance. Often, I sat with my colleagues around a table in the boardroom and was bombarded with comments like “we used to,” “they always,” “it never,” and my personal favorite, “we can’t.” The amount of energy required to manage the past was draining the individuals called to move their organization forward. I sat there thinking that while it’s important to be mindful of the past, it’s as important to ensure it doesn’t tie us to an anchor on a short rope at high tide.
As a leader, helping your team to embrace opportunity challenges you to let go of historical assumptions and behaviors. In this transformation of health care, what preserved you in the past might actually drown you in the future. Historically, we were very paternalistic in our models of care; the doctor knows best. Don’t question the nurse. However, patients are more informed, for better or for worse, in today’s world. Providers are evaluated on the patient’s perception of satisfaction and engagement. So, therefore, what worked in the past may very well prevent you from being successful in the future.
So, while sitting at that board room table I wondered to myself, “why am I giving time and energy to a conversation that isn’t going to help us move forward?” And, I observed to our team, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” We do need to mourn the loss and, yet, it’s important to recognize when to let go, to take a deep breath, and reach forward.
Don’t look back, you’re not going that way:
- Part II: How to envision a successful future – Coming Soon!
- Part III: Creating a trusted circle that brings others along with you