Seeing Through Your Blind Spots

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 Introduction to Herb Dyer
Herb was selected by our Vice President of Interim Recruitment to join HTS3 Executive Recruiting as one our CEO Interim Leaders.
As a CEO of large healthcare organizations coupled with Acute Care Hospitals, Herb has had extensive experience of building trust with stakeholders, possessing a proven ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities to drive strong and sustained contributions to revenues, efficiency and bottom-line results of leading healthcare organizations. Herb has a solid track record of delivering large-scale (800+FTE’s), multimillion-dollar capital projects to on-time, on-budget and high-quality completion. He is a thought leader in the true sense, having written many inspiring blogs, some of which are interwoven with childhood lessons learned at the early age of eight years old.

In this particular third article in his series below, he writes about his leadership journey and recognizing and addressing blind spots.

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Blind spots are those things that we “should” be able to see, but for some reason we are blocked from seeing them. Blind spots cause us to make bad decisions and sometimes blind spots can be deadly.

While I’m not a surgeon, I’ve spent enough time working in hospitals to know that, for each patient, it doesn’t matter how many successful surgeries you have performed – it matters that you perform a successful surgery for them. If you miss something because you were over-confident or you just couldn’t see it, the results could be fatal.

Fortunately for most leaders, the effect of their blind spots may not have consequences as dire as a surgeon’s, but leaders can never lull themselves into believing that all the good decisions they’ve made in the past matter – because the only decision that matters is the one you’re making right now…or the one you’re about to make.

In 2009, I was managing the opening of a hospital when I found myself at odds with “Kyla,” the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) that I hired and “Jenna,” the Chief Nursing Officer for the hospital system. Several incidents occurred that made it obvious that Kyla was more comfortable going to Jenna for advice and guidance, and, leaving me out of the loop in the process. Today, Kyla and I have a respectful and healthy relationship, but back then the situation almost caused me to leave the organization. Let me tell you what happened.

For most of my career I have led major projects with high complexity and this experience afforded me strong confidence in my abilities to successfully finish any project I started. I connected well with those who wanted to learn from me. I trusted others to do their jobs and to speak up if they had any ideas or concerns. I also had some blind spots.

My Blind Spots

My first blind spot was believing that because I had been successful in my career and previous projects everyone knew how skilled I was and trusted me to get the job done. A corollary to this blind spot was that if I had confidence in the skills of others that they would have confidence in my skills. If I were a surgeon, I would have failed in instilling confidence in my patient that I would get it right for them. I needed a better bedside manner!

My second blind spot was believing that emotions did not have a place in the work environment. My mom was a nurse and she conveyed to me all the qualities that make a great nurse – a deep knowledge of medicine, a nurturing and compassionate soul, and a passion for truth that made her dig in her heels and fight for what she believed in. I admired similar traits in Kyla. Where Kyla and my mom were more connected with their emotions, I was more stoic and logical. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) thought along similar lines and responded well to my style and approach, but Kyla did not.

Looking back, there may have been some unspoken gender issues at play as well. The CMO and I were male and the CNO was female. In many parts of the organization there was a good ol’ boys network and the CMO and I may have been perceived as part of that. Like any perception, what we think we see becomes real and causes us to behave in ways that confirm that perception. If she saw us as part of the problem, we were, and the only way she knew to combat that was by aligning with the Jenna, the CNO for the system.

So there we were, the CMO and I clicking along on the project and unknowingly creating distance instead of alignment with our CNO who was unknowingly creating distance with us as well.

How did we solve this problem?

We needed someone to do exploratory surgery of the dynamic of our relationship, so we hired an executive coach to work with the CNO, the CMO, and me (Chief Operating Officer). The coach engaged us in talking about our individual stress levels and how that stress impacted our decision making. We learned that the CNO feared failure to a greater extent than the CMO or I did. We learned that what I perceived as an objective approach was doing nothing to quell her fears, whereas Jenna, the system CNO, was able to communicate in ways that addressed both emotion and logic.

Through the eyes of our executive coach, I was able to “see through” my blind spots and address the issue, just like a surgeon might consult another surgeon or use a video camera to help illuminate the problem area. Once I could see the problem, I realized that walking away wasn’t the solution. I chose to build a stronger relationship with Kyla. It started with lunch.

We were able to reconnect on a human level. I talked about my mom and how she had passed her passion for service on to me and I asked her about why she became a nurse and what her hopes and fears for the project and her career were. I sought opportunities to publicly support her and help her realize her personal and professional goals. I also provided her more autonomy to make decisions. In return, she kept me in the loop on discussions she had with the system CNO and surprised me more than once with her keen insight and perspectives on ways to improve the project outcomes. She began to see how my previous success helped me make decisions in areas that mattered to her, and I realized that the only decisions that were important were the ones I was making right now.

Many of the surgeons I know are so committed to the health of their patients that they will take as much time as they can during surgery to make sure the patient can achieve a full recovery whenever possible. They get to know their patients on a personal level, because they understand that the human connection is what drives them to see through their blind spots to ensure positive outcomes. What are your blind spots? Who is helping you to see through them right now?

Herb Dyer

Senior Healthcare Executive at DyerHealthcare Consulting