Filling in the Blanks

I’m currently reading a very interesting book by Cleveland Clinic’s Customer Experience Officer James Merlino, MD titled, “Service Fanatics:  How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way”.  In the book, Dr. Merlino discusses the different aspects of providing a quality experience for the clinic’s patients.  One section that I found particularly interesting was the reality that when patients lack information, they tend to fill in the blanks.

Dr. Merlino talks about how a patient that has been admitted to a hospital most likely has all day to lay there and think almost exclusively about their condition and the illness or injury that ails them.  Their condition is likely the “big thing” on their mind, causing them to think about how it may affect their future, what could go wrong, or a host of other concerns.

As a result, patients are eager for information from doctors and other care givers about their condition and in the absence of information from their caregivers, patients start to fill in the blanks for themselves.  If the patient had a test that the doctor ordered, and they haven’t received the results from their doctor shortly thereafter, they may start to wonder whether the doctor has received the results or whether the results showed something bad that the doctor isn’t telling them or a whole host of other, usually negative, scenarios.

This got me thinking, although I’m not a doctor, have I ever caused someone to fill in the blanks because they were waiting for a response from me regarding a topic that was extremely urgent or important to them?  I’m sure I have.  I’m also reminded that what may seem normal, routine, or of low priority to one person may be totally new uncharted and even scary territory for someone else.

As we’re going through life and setting our priorities at work, home, and in our communities, let’s be aware of those we’re interacting with and scenarios they’re facing.  If they’re facing something critical and need information from us, let’s provide it quickly.  If we can’t provide it quickly, let’s at least keep people informed on our progress, so they’re not left to fill in the blanks.

What Football Can Teach Us About Goal Setting – Part 2

There was some good college bowl games played on New Year’s Day 2015!  Ohio State and Alabama played a close game in the Sugar Bowl that went down to the last play, and Oregon dismantled Florida State in the Rose Bowl, breaking a Florida State 29 game winning streak in the process.  Despite the differences in each game, there was one aspect that was exactly the same:  Each team knew the significance of the goal line.

I love the name:  “goal line”.  It very clearly states the objective of the entire game for each team, no matter what side of the ball they’re on.  For the offense, the objective is to cross the goal line and score points for your team.  For the defense, the objective is to keep your opponent from crossing the goal line and scoring.

The goal line is a very clearly defined critical reference point that each team is striving to cross or protect.  There is no question from anyone, on either team, as to the objective of the game and the goal they’re working toward.

Imagine if there was no goal line in football.  The game would be confusing and chaotic, with no one really knowing what they were supposed to be doing or what the objective of the game was.  It can be like that in our own lives without clearly defined goals.  If we don’t know what goal lines we want to cross for our lives in 2015, we will be unclear and confused as to our daily direction.  In addition, unless we’re content just drifting through the year like a leaf in a stream, going wherever the current takes us, we’re going to be disappointed on December 31st 2015 when we realize we haven’t made any progress or significant changes in our life.

What goal lines have you defined for yourself for 2015?  Do you know what you’re moving toward achieving throughout 2015?   If so, great!  Begin taking steps every day to move ever closer to crossing your goal line.  If you haven’t determined what your goal lines for 2015 are, it’s not too late.  Spend some time deciding what you’d like to accomplish this year and clearly define what success in those areas looks like for you.  The definitions you create will be your goal lines.  Your objective for the year will be to make incremental progress toward crossing them.

Where Do You Want to be on December 31st

Are you looking to make significant changes in any area of your life in 2015?  If so, seriously consider the following question:

What do you want your life to look like on December 31st 2015?  

This is not only a great question, it’s also a great goal setting starting point, because it causes us to really think about how we’d like our life to look in 12 months, and gives us a target to shoot for throughout the year.  With this vision firmly planted in our mind, we can move backwards and determine what steps we need to take, and by when, in order to arrive at our desired life in 12 months.

As you start your goal setting and life planning for 2015, begin by creating a very clear and measurable picture of how you’d like your life to look on December 31st 2015.  Hold this picture in mind all year.  Do whatever you can to keep it in the front of your thoughts.  Use it to intentionally guide your behaviors and decision making which in order to cause you to arrive at the life you desire 12 months from now.

Know where you’re going in 2015, and take the necessary steps to get there.

Happy New Year!

What Football Can Teach Us About Goal Setting

With 2014 drawing to a close, many people have begun setting goals for 2015.  I like setting goals for the coming year.  It provides direction, purpose, and focus for the next 12 months.  However, sometimes it can be frustrating when we don’t see immediate results, and it feels like we’re not making progress as quickly as we’d like.  When this occurs, I think we can gain great perspective and encouragement from the sport of American football.

The objective of American football is for the offense to advance the ball down the field and into the end zone for a touchdown.  What’s interesting, from the standpoint of pursuing goals, is the process for advancing the ball.  In its simplest form, the offense:

  1. Huddles up to hear the play (the plan) that will be run on the upcoming down
  2. Lines up and executes the play
  3. Examines the results, makes any necessary adjustments, and runs another play

That’s so similar to the process of pursuing a goal we’ve established.  While pursuing a goal we:

  1. Create a plan for achieving our goal
  2. Execute our plan
  3. Examine our results periodically, make any needed adjustments, and continue forward with our plan

We continue this process until the year is up or the goal is achieved.  In either case, we continue the pursuit of our goal, or define a new set of goals and advance toward their achievement.

It’s pretty uncommon in football that the offense will throw the ball all the way down field and score a touchdown every time they have the ball.  Likewise, our big goals are rarely achieved on our first attempt.  They usually take time and consistent effort, as well as an occasional tweaking of our plan, rather than one quick heroic effort.  That’s how the majority of touchdowns are scored and how goals are achieved.

As you set your goals for 2015 and create plans to achieve them, remember the following: they will take time to achieve and adjusting your plan is part of the process.  If you stay committed to the process, I have now doubt you’ll achieve the goals you set.

What’s the Outcome We’re Expecting

Have you ever hopped in the car with somewhere important to go and just found yourself driving around and never making it to the destination?  It may be somewhere we’ve been multiple times, or it may be somewhere we’ve never been before.  Regardless, when we get in the car and start the engine, we usually know where it is we would like to go, so our probability of getting to our destination is quite high.

What about a meeting, appointment, or important phone conversation?  How many times do we begin one without really knowing or specifying what a successful outcome looks like, leaving others in attendance to think to themselves, “Where is this going”?  I think the best way to avoid this scenario is to ask the people in attendance for their expectations.

Business consultant Ray Edwards addressed this in a recent podcast (time remaining 6:03), and I thought his insight was significant.  At the beginning of any call he has with a client he asks, “So that we get the most out of this call, what’s the most important thing that needs to happen on this call?”

What a great question to ask!  This question is applicable not only for phone calls, but also for meetings and appointments.  The question allows everyone in attendance to know the desired outcome the appointment was created to achieve, as well as creating a framework to keep the appointment on task.  I’ve already asked this question once this week, prior to a scheduled meeting, and found the insight I received enabled me to better participate.

If you find that your meetings, appointments or important phone conversations lack direction or a specific outcome, try doing one of the following before the meeting:

  • Describe to the attendees the desired outcome of the appointment. This is most applicable if you scheduled the appointment.  It lets everyone know why they are there.
  • Ask attendees if there is any specific outcome they need from the appointment.

Asking this simple question, or stating a desired outcome at the beginning of an appointment, will bring focus and efficiency that may otherwise not be present.  Not only will your appointments be more successful, those in attendance will appreciate being asked what is important to them.

All I’ve got is a 5

Imagine you need change for a 10 dollar bill (USD).  You ask someone next to you if they have change for a 10, to which they reply, “All I’ve got is a 5”.  That’s not what you want to hear.  You want change for a 10, not a 5.  You may get frustrated or upset because the other person doesn’t have change for a 10, but the reality is, that the most this person can give you is a 5.

It can be like that in your relationships with those closest to you, especially with family.

Picture an interaction rating scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst possible interaction (yelling, fighting, abusive language, a lack of caring or interest in you) and 10 being the best interaction imaginable (kind words of love and affirmation, good spirited laughter, and an appreciation of your presence).

Now envision going to a family event where you’ll encounter a family member whose interactions usually come in around a 3 or 4, with the occasional rare 5.  Perhaps it’s a parent, a spouse, a child, sibling, or grandparent.  If this person is someone close to you, you may find yourself hoping, even expecting, that this time your interaction will be closer to a 9, maybe even a 10!  Perhaps this time, they’ll speak kindly to you and finally tell you how much they love and appreciate you.

This expectation is unfair to the person you are interacting with.  If, on their best day, they are only capable of giving you a level 5 interaction, and you’re expecting a 10, you are not only setting yourself up for disappointment, you are setting them up for failure.

Here’s something to try at your next family get-together this holiday season.  Instead of starting from the place of expecting a level 10 interaction, consider what the person is capable of offering, and adjust your expectations accordingly.  If the best they can offer is a 6, set your expectations at a 4 or 5.  They just might surprise you with a 6.  Wouldn’t it be better to be surprised by a 6 when you were expecting a 4, than to be disappointed by a 6, when you were expecting a 10 that was never going to happen?

It’s worth mentioning that if interactions are always on lower end of the scale, you should consider putting some healthy boundaries in place, which may involve drastically reducing, or even eliminating, your interactions with this person.

We can choose to have unrealistically high expectations of certain people and set ourselves up for disappointment, or we can lower our expectations to realistic levels that other person can achieve.

Just remember, we can never get change for a 10 from someone who only has a 5.

Adding or Subtracting

I had a great Thanksgiving this year.  In the morning we had brunch with a small gathering at our house and in the afternoon we had dinner with family at my sister in-law’s house.  Both events were enjoyable and it was fun to see everyone and spend some time together.  It was a nice Thanksgiving.

At my sister in-law’s, there was a family member who was absent, due to illness and declining health.  Toward the end of the evening my sister in-law commented that it was nice not having the family member present because that way she didn’t feel on edge wondering if they were going get upset and start yelling, as they so often have in the past, thus turning what should be a fun family event into an awkward, tension filled evening.  This was clearly a case of addition by subtraction; the absence of this family member made for a more enjoyable evening for everyone else.

As I reflected on this comment, I couldn’t help think of my interactions with others and wonder if there have been times where an event would have been enhanced by my absence.  To think that the answer to this question would be “Yes”, is an awful feeling, especially if those answering are family and the people closest to me.  I never want my absence from a gathering or event to be considered addition by subtraction.

This seems like a pretty easy scenario to avoid.  If you want to be seen as someone whose presence adds to an event, then employ the following suggestions the next time you gather with family or friends:

  • Be kind to others. Greet people by name when you arrive.    Shake hands or give out hugs.  Let others in attendance know you’re glad to be part of the event with them.
  • Take the focus off of yourself and place it on others. Ask how people are doing and what they’re up to, and show an interest in their reply.  If you know of somewhere they’ve been recently, or something currently going on in their life, ask them about it and then listen to and comment on their reply.
  • Enjoy the moment and be present with the people you’re with. Put down the smartphone.  Wait until you get home to check social media.  Instead of being so eager to inform everyone who’s NOT at the event about what’s going on, engage and connect with those present.  That’s the ultimate in social media.

As you attend different events this holiday season, do so with the intent of being someone who’s presence enhances the event for others attending.  Let it be said of you that events which you attended were much more enjoyable because of your presence.   What a great gift to give people this holiday season.