Would You Like Some Humble Pie?

Posted on by CATALYSIS

When we observe leadership behavior long enough, we often witness someone in a high ranking position that could use a slice of humble pie.  Because of their position, a leader’s behavior is observed by everyone in the organization.  If the leader communicates the wrong way or jumps to the wrong conclusion, everyone knows. And the consequences of a high ranking leader acting like they know it all, can be demoralizing to employees.

It’s hard for some leaders to show confidence and exhibit pride in their work, but not cross the line to arrogance.

One way to act humble is to listen more than you talk. This can be hard for some people, as it is for me.  It’s also hard not to start talking as soon as the person you are listening to is done talking.  Now I try to wait a few seconds. Sometimes I am surprised what I learn.

Last month our team at the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value had the chance to bring in a coach to help us learn more about A3 Thinking.  One of the exercises we did as part of the training was to ask each other questions about the A3 we were working on.  While it was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes ask you questions about your A3 , what I found most helpful was the exercise of learning the art of asking the questions.

Not just any type of questions, but humble inquiry types of questions.  The kind of questions that you don’t already know the answer to.  The kind of questions that can help you build a relationship with a co-worker. The kind of questions that show genuine interest and curiosity.  We were also lucky to have some people in our group that were very good at asking these kinds of questions.

When we were done, we wrote some of the questions on the wall and I thought to myself, 'wow, I need to learn how to ask these kinds of questions'.

Here are a few of them:

  • How is this measured today?
  • What makes that such a struggle?
  • What does good look like today?
  • How do they learn about that?
  • What evidence do you have so far?
  • How was that decision made?

Are these the type of questions you are asking in your organizations?  Do you practice humble inquiry? Do you lead with humility or arrogance?  Leading with humility is just one of the ten guiding principles of the Shingo Model.   And to help healthcare executives learn more about leadership behavior and many other aspects of improving a healthcare organization, John Toussaint, MD, has written a new book titled,  Management on the Mend: The Healthcare Executive Guide to System Transformation.  In chapter 3 of the book, Values and Principles, John describes the benefits of leading with humility, and then explains how each of the ten guiding (Shingo) principles have shaped the culture of winning healthcare organizations.

So go forth and lead with humility. Start today with Humble Inquiry.

Steve Bollinger
Director, Product Development
ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value

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